SAN ANTONIO – There appears to be daylight in ongoing talks for a mandatory light heavyweight championship fight.
Two of the sport’s biggest promotional outfits continue to work on a deal that will satisfy all parties for an ordered Artur Beterbiev-Callum Smith bout. Top Rank promotes Beterbiev (19-0, 19KOs), the lineal, WBC, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion, while Liverpool’s Smith—the WBC number-one contender—is represented by Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. Common ground has been found between both sides, who want the fight and are interested in it taking place sometime in early summer.
Where the fight lands geographically and platform are among the few remaining unresolved matters, though by no means a dealbreaker.
“We have an extension to the negotiations. We had a little bit of time before the purse bids are called but we expect a deal to get done,” Hearn informed BoxingScene.com. “Naturally, we would love to do the fight in Liverpool. There is some interest in the Middle East as well.”
Top Rank has expressed interest in staging the fight in Canada. Beterbiev has lived in Montreal since turning pro in 2013 after representing his native Russia in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. With that would come the expectation of staging the championship clash on an ESPN platform, with whom Top Rank has enjoyed an exclusive output deal since 2017.
Matchroom Boxing is the primary content provider for sports streaming platform DAZN.
The two services have collaborated in the past, including for the Kenshiro Teraji-Hiroto Kyoguchi junior flyweight championship unification clash last November 1 in Saitama, Japan. The bout aired on ESPN+ in the U.S. and DAZN in select global markets.
Similarly, Beterbiev made his most recent title defense across multiple platforms. His eighth-round knockout of WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde took place on January 28 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Yarde is promoted by Queensberry Promotions, who does all of its business with UK-based BT Sport which aired the fight live to its subscribers. U.S. fans were able to catch the action via ESPN+.
There is no reason to believe that a similar arrangement cannot be made for Beterbiev-Smith.
“As far as the networks, there is a model in place from the Yarde fight. We can do something similar, where we let Bob have the U.S. market and we get the UK, etcetera,” noted Hearn.
Beterbiev has made seven successful defenses of at least one light heavyweight title dating back to his November 2017 IBF title win over Enrico Koelling. He has since added the WBC and WBO belts with knockout wins over Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith Jr.
Smith (29-1, 21KOs) previously held the WBA super middleweight title before his reign ended in a December 2020 defeat to then pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (58-2-2, 39KOs). He has since brought his 6’3” frame to the light heavyweight division, where the 32-year-old Smith has won his past two starts, both well inside the distance. He became the mandatory challenger to Beterbiev’s WBC title following a fourth-round knockout of Mathieu Bauderlique in their August 20 title eliminator in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Beterbiev is tabbed as a heavy favorite to win the fight. Smith’s side is confident of pulling off the upset—as well as landing a favorable location for the event.
“I firmly believe Callum Smith can win that fight,” noted Hearn. “I want to put him in the best position possible to become the unified light heavyweight champion of the world. Hopefully, we can get it made for July.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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