Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr.: Fight prediction, undercard, odds, start time, unification fight preview

Boxing’s series of big matchups and multi-belt unifications continues on Saturday with what promises to be a clash between WBC and IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. The fight takes place from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday nights (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) is one of the most feared punchers in the sport, having knocked out every man he entered the ring with as a professional. He captured the vacant IBF title in November 2017 with a knockout victory over Enrico Kolling. Kolling almost became the first man to take Beterbiev to the scorecards, but Beterbiev’s relentless pressure eventually caught up as he scored the knockout with just 27 seconds left in the fight.

Three fights later, Beterbiev added the WBC belt to his collection with a stoppage of Oleksandr Gvozdyk in a highly anticipated fight that saw Beterbiev methodically break down an elite light heavyweight. He has twice defended his unified titles since the stoppage win over Gvozdyk.

“It’s a very important fight for me. As for the venue, it’s no different for me. I’m more focused on the fight. I’m more focused on my opponent, not the venue. I ask always to my boxing trainer and my fitness trainer on how i’m doing I ask them if it’s less than I was two years ago They tell me I’m better than two years ago years,” Beterbiev said at the final press conference.

“Compared to the last one, this camp went very well. This camp was better. I want to thank my team, my physical trainer, my boxing coach, my whole team and all my sparring partners who gave me helped. a good campsite.”

At Smith (28-3, 22 KOs), Beterbiev takes on another hard-hitting brawler who tries to use his power and grit to finally grab his opponent and finish the fight.

The race to a world championship has been a long one for Smith, who defeated Maxim Vlasov by majority decision in April 2021 to win the WBO title. It was Smith’s 30th professional fight. Prior to that, Smith was given a chance against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in March 2019. Bivol outplayed Smith in the fight, taking a wide decision that saw Smith win only two rounds at most.

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“I believe this guy is at his peak right now. I don’t think age has anything to do with it. I know he’s 100 per cent here and ready to go. I know I’m here to fight one of the best, so I trained 110%,” Smith said. “I extended this camp a bit more. I made sure to improve on things that I wasn’t doing at my best. I stayed more consistent in my training, so I feel comfortable for this weekend. end.”

Bivol’s presence in the division looms large ahead of Beterbiev against Smith. After Bivol scored a big upset against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, he has the most name value — and possibly the most skill — in the division. The winner of Saturday’s fight could be set up for a four-belt unification with Bivol to crown an undisputed light heavyweight champion.

Saturday’s co-feature fight brings the return of a much-loved prospect in Robeisy Ramirez. The Cuban native passes a tough test with veteran Abraham Nova. Ramirez is 9-1 since making his pro debut in 2019 in a losing effort. Since then, he has beaten every man in front of him with relative ease.

Beterbiev vs. Smith card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

Artur Beterbiev (c) -700

Joe Smith Jr. (c) +500

Unified Light Heavyweight Championship

Robeisy Ramirez -450

Abraham Nova +350

Lightweight

Prediction

Smith can hit and hit hard. Considering he’s a talented fighter with serious power, he’s a very lively underdog at +500. That said, Beterbiev is a fantastic fighter and a level above Smith. Smith needs to find a way to keep Beterbiev away from him and have space to let his power punches through. It’s a big ask, though, as Beterbiev is exceptional from close range, getting inside and mauling with work to both the body and the head.

This approach to fighting is why Beterbiev has done so well. He forces opponents to fight on the inside where he has the advantage, and he smashes them until they simply have nothing left. Smith is strong enough to survive for a while, but not for 12 full rounds. Pick: Artur Beterbiev via TKO9