Callum Smith is in position to move within one win from challenging for a second major title.
The WBC has called for a final title eliminator between Liverpool’s Smith and France’s Mathieu Bauderlique, with the bout heading to a July 1 purse bid hearing. The winner of the ordered fight will become the WBC mandatory challenger to unified lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18KOs).
Smith (28-1, 20KOs) was previously being groomed to next appear on the undercard of the confirmed Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title fight rematch, which is set for August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The fight could still land there but would require Smith’s promoter, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, to either work out a deal in time or simply win the purse bid hearing to secure promotional rights.
Should the fight land on the card, it will mark the second straight fight at light heavyweight for Smith, who permanently moved up in weight for his most recent outing. Smith scored a second-round knockout of former title challenger Lenin Castillo, which took place on the undercard of Usyk’s win over Joshua last September 25 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. It was his first fight since losing his WBA super middleweight title to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in December 2020, which was very likely his last ever fight at super middleweight.
Bauderlique (21-1, 12KOs) has won nine straight since suffering his lone career defeat, a stunning first-round knockout to Dragan Lepei in his 13th pro fight more than five years ago. The 31-year-old southpaw entered the pro ranks in 2011, taking a brief break after an April 2016 win to represent France in the 2016 Rio Olympics where he captured a Bronze medal in the first year where the quadrennial event permitted pro boxers to participate.
In his most recent start, Bauderlique picked up his most significant win to date in a seventh-round stoppage of former title challenger Igor Mikhalkin last September 10 in Paris. Unless his local promoter Brahim Asloum—a former WBA junior flyweight at the pinnacle of his brief pro career—wins promotional rights, it is likely that Bauderlique will have to fight outside his native France for the first time in his career.
At 6’3”, Smith—the youngest of the four fighting Smith brothers—often enjoyed a considerable size advantage at super middleweight, though at the expense of cutting those final seven pounds that aren’t necessary at light heavyweight. The 32-year-old Liverpool native felt the difference in previous fights outside of super middleweight and again in his first fight post-title reign.
It was also his first with new trainer Buddy McGirt. Smith joined forces with the Hall of Fame former two-division champ and 2002 Trainer of the Year after a career spent with renowned cornerman Joe Gallagher. The union with McGirt remains a work in progress though the immediate effects were shown in his last fight. Dominican Republic’s Castillo went twelve rounds with WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in October 2019 and was never stopped in 25 pro fights before running into Smith last September.
The win was the first step towards a hoped for shot at either Beterbiev or Bivol, the latter who is fresh off a career-best 12-round win over Alvarez in May.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox