By: Sean Crose
The man has never lost a fight. Not once. What's more, light heavyweight titlist Artur Beterbiev has never gone the distance. Not once. Not in all of his 17 professional bouts. He's stopped every opponent he's faced within the distance. Needless to say, Beterbiev is not a fighter one would consider boring. The same can be said for Beterbiev's opponent this coming Saturday night in New York, however. For the 26-3 Joe Smith is known for his rugged approach to boxing. He was the man who knocked Bernard Hopkins into retirement - though, granted, Hopkins was 51 at the time and had declared the fight with Smith to be his last beforehand.
With WBA champion Dmitry Bivol having shocked Canelo Alvarez last month, the light heavyweight division has recently found itself in the spotlight. With that in mind, Beterbiev has everything to lose if Smith somehow lifts his WBC and IBF belts (Beterbiev is favored walking in) as a result of their scheduled 12 rounder. The same rings true for WBO titlist Smith. The winner of this fight on Saturday will be in possession of three light heavyweight belts, meaning that a future fight for undisputed with Bivol should be a no brainer (though, this being the sport of boxing, one really never knows).
Smith's last fight was a 9th round knockout of Steve Greffard last January. Beterbiev's last bout was a 9th round knockout of Marcus Brown last December. No one has more heart than Smith, though the agreed to opinion seems to be that Beterbiev will end the fight on Saturday within the distance. When "everyone" seems to agree on something, however, "everyone" can often be found to be wrong. What's more, tomorrow's match is going down at the Theater in Madison Square Garden. A native Long Islander, Smith will be fighting in his home state. A supportive crowd can go a long way for a fighter.
Featherweight Abraham Nova will also appear on Saturday's card. The 21-0 New Yorker (by way of Puerto Rico) will be facing the 9-1 Robeisy Ramirez in a scheduled 10 round affair. Nova's last fight was an 8th round stoppage of William Encarnacian back in January. Ramirez' last battle was a 3 round stoppage of Eric Donavan in February. Nova-Ramirez, along with the Beterbiev-Smith main event, will be aired live on ESPN and ESPN+ starting at 10 PM eastern time Saturday night. Before that, the undercard will be aired live on ESPN+ starting at 6 PM eastern time.