Artur Beterbiev is on the same page as Joe Smith Jr.
Beterbiev, the WBC/IBF light heavyweight titleholder from Russia, wants to unify the belts in the division as much as Smith, the WBO light heavyweight titleholder from Mastic, New York, does, according to Marc Ramsay, Beterbiev’s longtime trainer.
That was not the impression Smith had as of late.
The 32-year-old Smith recently defended his title against late replacement Steve Geffrard at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. Smith stopped Geffrard in the ninth round. As he was doing the media rounds going into the fight, which was originally supposed to feature England’s Callum Johnson as the challenger (COVID-19), Smith told BoxingScene.com that he had previously “signed multiple contracts” to fight Beterbiev but that the Russian “backed out of the fight two or three times.”
Smith’s co-promoter Joe DeGuardia said after Smith’s victory over Geffrard that he was not going to “sit around and wait” forever for Beterbiev to make a decision.
The only other titleholder in the 175-pound division is Dmitry Bivol (WBA), but unlike Smith and Beterbiev, who are aligned with Top Rank, Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) is under contract with rival promoter Matchroom. A Beterbiev-Smith unification should theoretically be easy to make.
Ramsay was taken aback by Team Smith’s comments, claiming the only interaction they had was through Top Rank.
“It's really funny how the reality of some is not that [the same as] others,” Ramsay told BoxingScene.com. “We received only one call from Top Rank asking about our interest in a fight with Joe Smith at MSG and we told them we were interested and ready to listen to the offer. After that, they never contacted us about it. We didn't even have the chance to talk about money.
“A month later, [Top Rank] contacted us to tell us that we had to defend our title against mandatory WBC contender Marcus Browne, which we did.”
The 37-year-old Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) defeated Browne in the ninth round on Dec. 17 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Beterbiev’s adopted hometown. Beterbiev had to fight through half of the bout with a gruesome cut that was deemed a result of an unintentional head clash.
Ramsay, who acts as the Director of Development for the Quebecois promotional company Eye of the Tiger, noted that talks have resumed with Smith (28-3, 22 KOs).
“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, adding that they want the Smith fight “ASAP.” “Artur is never one to back away from a challenge.
"Right now, it's just a matter of negotiation,” Ramsay continued. “With Arthur, it's never personal. The goal he’s set for himself is to hold the other belts, that's all.
Ramsay notes that Beterbiev’s cut is healing on schedule.
“Artur has received 40 days without contact, so he’ll be cleared to resume contact in mid-February,” Ramsay said. “He is already back in training.”