NEW YORK – Joe DeGuardia joked that he would bet six figures on Joe Smith Jr. if he weren’t co-promoting his light heavyweight champion’s title unification fight against Artur Beterbiev on Saturday night.

DeGuardia respects Beterbiev’s power, resume and skill. He can’t understand, though, how some sportsbooks have established the unbeaten IBF/WBC 175-pound champion as such a heavy favorite over Smith, whom DeGuardia’s company, Star Boxing, has promoted throughout Smith’s career.

As of Thursday night, FanDuel listed Beterbiev as an 11-1 favorite. Caesars Sportsbook, which favored Beterbiev at 9-1 earlier this week, and DraftKings offered Beterbiev at 7-1.

The Russian-born, Montreal-based Beterbiev is 17-0 and has knocked out all of his professional opponents, yet DeGuardia doesn’t think nearly as much separates him from Smith, who owns the WBO light heavyweight title, as handicappers have indicated.

“I think those are good odds if you wanna bet on Joe Smith because I don’t see Joe as being a 9-1 underdog in this fight,” DeGuardia told “When you look at Beterbiev’s background, his record, his two titles, the fight against [Oleksandr] Gvozdyk, his Olympic pedigree, his style and things like that, you recognize that he’s a great fighter. We harbor no illusions. I know he’s a great fighter. But going into this fight at 9-1, put your money on Joe.”

Smith, 32, has made quite a successful career out of overcoming odds.

Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara, then a legitimate light heavyweight contender, opened as a 24-1 favorite versus Smith when they fought in June 2016. Premier Boxing Champions founder Al Haymon was criticized for even scheduling a Fonfara-Smith match, but Smith stopped Fonfara in the first round and impressively introduced himself to the boxing public.

Smith (28-3, 22 KOs), of Mastic, New York, ended Bernard Hopkins’ Hall-of-Fame career in his following fight. Hopkins opened as a 3-1 favorite, despite that he was 51 years old when he faced Smith, yet Smith knocked Philadelphia’s Hopkins out of the ring and into retirement in the eighth round of their December 2016 bout.

Jesse Hart was a 4-1 favorite when he faced Smith in January 2020. Smith still dropped Philadelphia’s Hart in the seventh round and won their 10-rounder comfortably on two scorecards (98-91, 97-92, 94-95).

In Smith’s subsequent bout, he stopped Eleider Alvarez, who entered the ring as a 2-1 favorite, in the ninth round of a WBO elimination match. Colombia’s Alvarez, a former WBO champion, had not lost by knockout or technical knockout before Smith stopped him in August 2020.

“People can relate to a guy who’s an underdog,” DeGuardia said. “He’s been in how many fights where he’s been the underdog and pulled through? Certainly, he knows what it’s like to go in as the underdog, what it’s like to go in with people saying, you know, they don’t believe he’s going to win.

“In this particular fight, he’s yet again fighting another guy people look at it as being King Kong, you know, Godzilla, or whatever you wanna call him. It’s a motivating factor as well for Joe. There’s something to be said for going into that ring when you’re the underdog and turning the tables on people.”

ESPN will broadcast Beterbiev-Smith as the main event of a show scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Featherweight contenders Abraham Nova (21-0, 15 KOs), of Albany, New York, and Robeisy Ramirez (9-1, 5 KOs), Cienfuegos, Cuba, are set to square off in the 10-round opener of ESPN’s telecast.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.