Joe Smith Jr. wants nothing more than the opportunity to prove himself against Artur Beterbiev later this year.
That’s the light heavyweight title unification bout Bob Arum, whose company co-promotes Smith and Beterbiev, intends to put together if Smith and Beterbiev win their upcoming 175-pound championship clashes.
“If they can make it happen, I’d definitely be looking forward to it,” Smith told BoxingScene.com. “I think it’d definitely make for a great fight. You know, we’re both powerful guys. I’d say one of us is the hardest-hitting light heavyweight in the division. We can find out who’s the best if we get that chance.”
Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) must get past Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) on April 10 to remain on track for the Beterbiev bout. ESPN will televise Smith-Vlasov, a 12-round fight for the vacant WBO light heavyweight crown, as the main event of a two-bout broadcast from Tulsa's Osage Casino.
This Saturday, ESPN and ESPN+ will carry Beterbiev’s obligatory title defense against Germany’s Adam Deines. The 12-round battle between Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) and Deines (19-1-1, 10 KOs), the mandatory challenger for Beterbiev’s IBF title, will happen at Megasport Sport Palace in Moscow.
The 36-year-old Beterbiev’s power impresses Smith, but the Long Island native questioned the Russian knockout artist’s boxing ability and overall level of opposition.
“I think he’s pretty much a one-dimensional fighter,” Smith said. “I know he’s got the power going for him. He’s a strong guy, but I’ve never really seen him look great boxing-wise, in my opinion. He has had one fight that I really give him credit for. But the rest, it seems like a lot of the guys that he fights aren’t even top-10 guys.”
The 31-year-old Smith, of Mastic, New York, referred to Beterbiev’s 10th-round stoppage of Oleksandr Gvozdyk as the “one fight” for which he deserves credit. Beterbiev knocked down Ukraine’s Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) three times in the 10th round of their October 2019 fight in Philadelphia for Beterbiev’s IBF belt and Gvozdyk’s WBC crown.
Beterbiev’s fight with Deines has been postponed twice – first due to Beterbiev’s rib injury and then because Beterbiev contracted COVID-19. The defending champion hasn’t boxed since he knocked out Gvozdyk 16 months ago.
“I don’t even know who Adam Deines is,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen him fight before.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.