BOXING

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW Sun: Artur Beterbiev v Joe Smith Jr

It’s a battle for light heavyweight supremacy this weekend as WBC & IBF champion Artur Beterbiev takes on WBO champion Joe Smith Jr at Madison Square Garden, New York.

The 175lb division has produced some brilliant fights in the past and with a perfect clash of styles at play here, this could turn out to be another one for the ages.

Artur Beterbiev is one of the most feared punchers in the sport. With a perfect record of 17-0 (17KO) the Russian has displayed frightening power during his nine-year professional career and climbed to the top of the light-heavyweight division with relative ease. As an amateur, he fought at two Olympic games and won a world championships so his dominance as a professional should come as no surprise.

As a quiet, unassuming character, Beterbiev doesn’t get the plaudits from the ‘casual’ fan but those in the hardcore circles speak highly of him and those who compete in the same division very rarely call him out. With no interest in building a media presence, Beterbiev focuses purely on his craft and despite now being 37, he is showing no signs of declining as an athlete.

The style of Beterbiev looks simple but is anything but. He is an aggressive, compact front foot fighter who doesn’t mind trusting his own chin to land his own power shots. The public will never queue up to listen to a Beterbiev interview but nobody will ever be disappointed when they watch a fight that involves the Russian champion. His willingness to take a shot to land a shot makes him unmissable television and that risky tactic will be on display again this weekend.

For all his knockouts, Beterbiev has been hurt himself in a fight with British fighter Callum Johnson. He was sent to the canvas heavily by Johnson, who is a huge puncher himself, but his reaction to getting knocked down was even more impressive. Beterbiev composed himself before finishing Johnson inside four rounds. Johnson had never been stopped before in his career.

It remains to be seen whether any active light heavyweight can stop Artur Beterbiev but his opponent this weekend, Joe Smith Jr, is a respectable champion who will enter the ring with no fear and an unwavering belief in his own ability.

 Joe Smith Jr is a story that all boxing fans can get behind. The former construction worker turned WBO light heavyweight champion is relatable to every working fan and although his story is heart-warming, his ability to compete at the top level is unquestionable and he is far more than just an opponent this weekend.

The road to the top has been anything but smooth for Smith Jr but that makes him the fighter he is. With a record of 28-3 (22KO), the Long Island native suffered an unexpected defeat in his seventh contest but bounced back like all great champions do.

Following that defeat, Smith Jr worked away on the smaller hall shows before catapulting himself onto the world scene with a victory over Bernard Hopkins who had no business being in a boxing ring by that time. That win put Smith Jr in a world title fight which he ultimately lost but it cemented his spot at the top table in the 175lb division.

Following that world title defeat, Smith Jr also lost a fight against Dmitry Bivol, who recently beat Canelo Alvarez but there is no shame in that. He managed to bounce back once again and finally got his hands on the WBO world title in 2021 before successfully defending it against Steve Geffrard earlier this year.

Joe Smith Jr is anything but a conventional champion and his losses along the way prove that. However, he is a fighter that has refused to lie down and admit defeat and that makes him incredibly dangerous at Maddison Square Garden this weekend.

It is impossible to see this fight being anything other than entertaining and although both men can box to a very high standard, this one looks sure to turn into a war and when it does, you must favour Artur Beterbiev to come out on top.

Joe Smith Jr is a very respectable champion and although he won’t quit, he might get dragged into a fight by the Russian and it will be difficult for him to emerge victorious if the fight goes that way. Beterbiev has an incredible talent for dragging fighters into a place they don’t want to be and although he may need to walk through fire to get to his American opponent this weekend, he is more than willing to do so as he has proven so many times before.

The Russian champion is (2/5) to score a knockout this weekend which looks inevitable given his record but if the fight catches fire early which it could do, he may well finish this in the first half and claim yet another belt in the 175lb division. This is an unmissable fight that will entertain from the opening bell and with that in mind Artur Beterbiev to win in rounds 1-6 is worth some consideration. 

JORDAN NEILD

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PROFIT/LOSS (JUNE 2022): LOSS -45.48 points
(Excluding ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)


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