Callum Smith’s status as the mandatory challenger for Artur Beterbiev’s WBC light heavyweight title was addressed Tuesday during the sanctioning organization’s annual convention.
Sort of, anyway.
Kevin Rooney Jr., on behalf of Matchroom Boxing, requested clarity related to Smith’s mandated shot at Beterbiev’s belt during the WBC’s lengthy ratings session in Acapulco, Mexico. President Mauricio Sulaiman confirmed Smith’s mandatory status, but Sulaiman stated that the WBC might not actually order Smith’s title shot until Beterbiev participates in a fight against Anthony Yarde and, if Beterbiev defeats Yarde, potentially a full title unification fight against another unbeaten Russian, Dmitry Bivol.
“I can guarantee the WBC board reviewed on Sunday – Callum Smith is the mandatory,” Sulaiman said. “He’s allowed to do a interim fight because Beterbiev is gonna do the WBO mandatory. The winner must fight Callum Smith. Smith is permitted to do a fight. However, if he loses that fight, he will lose his position as mandatory challenger.”
England’s Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) doesn’t have a fight scheduled, but Matchroom chairman Eddie Hearn intends to find an opponent for the former WBA super middleweight champion to help keep him busy while Beterbiev boxes at least one other opponent. The Russian-born, Quebec-based Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) is tentatively scheduled to make a mandatory defense of his WBO 175-pound championship when he faces Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) on January 28 at O2 Arena in London.
Yarde first must win a 10-round tune-up fight against Bulgaria’s Stefani Koykov (14-1, 12 KOs), which is scheduled for November 19 at Telford International Centre in Telford, England.
Both Beterbiev and Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) have expressed interest in finally facing one another in a much-discussed showdown that would crown the first fully unified light heavyweight champion of the four-belt era. A deal isn’t in place, however, for a Beterbiev-Bivol bout.
Russia’s Bivol boxed his way past the mandatory challenger for his WBA belt, Gilberto Ramirez, and won a 12-round unanimous decision Saturday night at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Bivol beat Mexico’s Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs) by scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111.
“After Beterbiev [participates in a] unification [fight],” Sulaiman said, “the winner must fight Smith.”
Liverpool’s Smith, meanwhile, has won back-to-back bouts by knockout since Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) beat him by unanimous decision in their 12-round fight for the WBA and WBC super middleweight titles in December 2020 at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.