Don’t miss the fight between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr., Saturday at 10pm, on RDS2 and RDS Direct.
MONTREAL – Since starting his professional career, Artur Beterbiev has beaten every opponent he has faced before the limit. Seventeen times in as many fights, Christian Gauthier or no other announcer in the world had to maintain suspense to announce the winner of a duel with the Russian-born Montrealer.
From Christian Cruz to Marcus Browne passing through former world champions Tavoris Cloud and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) has always found the flaw that ended up breaking them. This is the second longest active streak of its kind behind 18 K.-O. in as many outings by Vergil Ortiz Jr., who doesn’t have a championship fight to his credit yet.
But that incredible streak could end Saturday night, when the WBC and IBF unified light heavyweight champion takes on WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. in a unification match held Saturday night at New York’s legendary Madison Square Theater Garden.
It is true that Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) has already been stopped once, but it was early in his career in the seventh duel, by a certain Eddie Caminero who had fractured his cheek in the second round. “It was a broken cheek. It is truly pocketable. What can I say? Smith recalled in an interview with the columnist forESPN Mark Kriegel.
It was August 2010. History repeated several years later, in July 2017, against Sullivan Barrera. Backed by his victory over Bernard Hopkins, Smith had sent Barrera to the ground in the first round, except that the Cuban then hit him firmly in the second.
“I knew right away he was fractured,” Smith said. But this time the context was completely different. The shock was not organized in a small, modest room in Brooklyn. No, it was at the Inglewood Forum and was broadcast widely HBO.
“I thought I wasn’t going to give up,” Smith continued. If this is to be my last fight, I’ll finish it standing on my legs. And I’m still here. I’m still here. “
The former worker who now owns his tree pruning business is one of three division champions. He joined Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol in April 2021, after beating Maxim Vlasov. The victory was hard won by a majority decision of the judges.
“At some point in the fight, I went back to the corner after one round and told to do it [mon entraîneur] jerry [Capobianco] I didn’t know how I was going to get there to win, ”Smith said during a recent episode of the documentary. Blood sweat and tears fromESPN.
“The fractured cheeks, the defeat [à mon premier combat de championnat du monde] in front of Bivol … everything that came to my mind. It is not true that I had endured all this for not being able to become world champion. I really wanted to be world champion. “
However, the pitfalls aren’t unique to Smith. Although he never suffered a defeat, Beterbiev knew about him. Who doesn’t remember the terrible cut he got on his forehead during his last fight against Browne last December at the Bell Center?
As Beterbiev began to find his pace, an accidental header turned his fight into a bloodbath from the 4th round. Faced with the threat that the duel would be interrupted at any moment, the unified champion had no choice but to put pressure on his rival. Eventually he won by stoppage of the referee at the start of the 9th round.
The only thing that could get the better of Beterbiev is the wear and tear of time. At 37 the day will inevitably come when he will see his performance slowly decline …
“Why do you remind me that I’m 37?” Beterbiev mocked at a press conference Thursday afternoon. I constantly ask my coach [Marc Ramsay] and my athletic trainer [André Kulesha] if I do it less than two years ago. And they tell me no, indeed, that I do it even more than two years ago! “
“It really looks like it’s 100%,” Smith even confirmed. Age does not reach it! “
Coincidentally, it is the first time since the beginning of his career that Smith, who is from Long Island, will have the chance to fight in The most famous arena in the world. An element to definitely take into consideration regarding his desire to finish the fight on his two legs. For Beterbiev, who will also have a record at the MSG, it will be a duel like any other.
“It is an important fight, but the place where it is presented does not change anything for me, concluded Beterbiev. Montreal, New York or elsewhere … it’s the same thing!
“My goal is to be the best in the world and add another belt. That’s all! “