A three-belt light heavyweight unification showdown between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. appears imminent to take place this summer, Top Rank boss Bob Arum has revealed.
“That will take place in June primarily because of Ramadan. Beterbiev is very, very religious. He can't fight during Ramadan [from April 2 to May 2]. After it's over, he has to start training, so that would be the beginning of May. We're making that fight for Madison Square Garden at the end of June,” Arum told IFL.
Arum co-promotes both Beterbiev, 37, and Smith, 32. The IBF and WBC champion Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) and WBO crownholder Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) have both expressed intent to fight each other after each boxer remained victorious in their recent bouts. w
Beterbiev survived a nasty gash across his forehead to stop Marcus Browne in December, while Smith scored a win against late-replacement foe Steve Geffrard in January. Both fighters knocked out their opponents in the ninth round.
Following Smith’s win, co-promoter Joe DeGuardia told BoxingScene.com that they won’t continue to wait for Beterbiev to fight.
“Look, I mean, obviously it’s a fight we want,” DeGuardia said. “It’s a fight we’ve wanted for, you know, now what, three years? We’ve been trying to make that fight. We tried to make that fight before the [Dmitry] Bivol fight [in March 2019] and, you know, Beterbiev didn’t wanna take it after they told us he was gonna fight. So ultimately, if Beterbiev wants the fight and if ESPN wants the fight, we can make that fight happen. When you’ve got fighters that wanna fight, we’re gonna be able to make that fight happen. But frankly, I’m not gonna sit around and wait for Beterbiev because I want Joe to be back in the ring.”
Longtime Beterbiev trainer Marc Ramsay told BoxingScene.com last month that they are not ducking Smith.
“We recently had some discussions on this subject of fighting Smith and if the terms of the offer are acceptable, our answer will be affirmative,” Ramsay said. "Artur is never one to back away from a challenge … Right now, it's just a matter of negotiation. With Artur, it's never personal. The goal he’s set for himself is to hold the other belts, that's all."
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.