Artur Beterbiev could take one step closer to becoming undisputed light-heavyweight champion this summer.
According to ESPN’s Mike Coppinger the WBC and IBF title holder is in talks with Joe Smith Jr who won the WBO strap last year.
The winner of the fight would hold three of the four belts with the other (WBA) in the possession of Dmitry Bivol who continues to be linked to a May fight against undisputed super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
For Beterbiev v Smith Jr to get across the line the New Yorker is looking for $1.8m instead of the $1.5m offered by his co-promoter Star Boxing. Top Rank also promote Smith as well as Beterbiev.
The Russian (17-0, 17 KOs) was at his destructive best in the last defence of his titles against Marcus Browne in December. By the ninth round Browne’s efforts and the punishment dished out but Beterbiev eventually broke down the American who was knocked out. It was the fifth defence of the IBF title and the second of the WBC which Beterbiev won in a brutal affair against Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019.
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) had little trouble in the first defence of his world title last month. After original opponent Callum Johnson withdrew having caught Covid the opportunity eventually fell to late replacement Steve Geffrard. Smith too went on to pick up his win in the ninth round knocking out the Floridian who couldn’t match the efforts of the champion.
In his post-fight interview Smith, who won the title in a narrow win against Maxim Vlasov last April, spoke of his desire to land the big fights and mentioned Beterbiev, Bivol and Canelo as future opponents.
Should the unification fight happen this summer there will be interested eyes on this side of the pond. Anthony Yarde is currently the WBO’s number one contender while former super-middleweight champion Callum Smith is in the top slot for a shot at WBC title.