Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) is not concerned about fighting on Joe Smith’s turf tomorrow night.
The hardened Russian is in New York with his WBC and IBF titles looking to take the Long Islander’s WBO strap at the Hulu Theatre, Madison Square Garden.
With two heavy punchers in the ring no-one expects the fight to go the distance and at yesterday’s final press conference there was mutual respect between the two as they looked ahead to Saturday night.
“This is a very important fight for me,” said Beterbiev.
“With regard to the place, it’s not different for me. I’m more focused on the fight. I’m more focused on my opponent, not on the place. I always ask my boxing coach and my conditioning coach about how I’m doing. I ask them if it’s less than I was doing two years ago. They tell me that I’m doing better than two years ago.
“We are both ready for this fight. I think it’s going to be a good fight. We will see. I can’t predict the future. I’m just a boxer.”
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) is looking forward to his underdog task against one of the toughest and fearsome men in boxing.
“This is a huge opportunity. Beterbiev is a huge name in boxing. Everyone knows who he is at this point. He has two world titles, and I want those belts. I believe this fight is going to be great. You’ve got two big punchers, and I’m just excited to be in there with him. He’s a great name.
“I’m fighting at the Garden. Home is not too far from here. All my fans are going to be here to support me or, if not, watch at home. I’m just glad to be here defending my WBO title and unifying two other belts.”
It’s clear that should Smith win he does not want to hear any possible excuses about Beterbiev’s 37-year age afterwards.
“I believe this guy is in his prime right now. I don’t think age has anything to do with it. I know he’s here at 100 percent and ready to go. I know I’m here fighting one of the best.”
Promoter Bob Arum, who will celebrate his 91st birthday in December, said Beterbiev v Smith Jr takes him back to the halcyon days of the light heavyweight division when Top Rank were heavily involved at 175lbs.
“At my age, this fight brings me back so many decades to when Top Rank promoted the leading light heavyweights in the world like Bob Foster, Matthew Saad Muhammad, John Conteh, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and Marvin Johnson. The light heavyweight division has given people who follow boxing great thrills for as long as I’ve been promoting fights. Now we have this fight, which will go into the annals like all the great light heavyweight fights of the past and may even be the one that is the greatest.”
Arum moved on to discuss Saturday’s fight and believes it could go down as one of the best we see this year.
“Joe Smith is a tremendous fighter. He has a big heart. He has a lot of skills and a lot of punching power. And what can I say about Artur Beterbiev? He really epitomizes the ferocity that light heavyweights have been known for. Tremendous puncher. Big heart. A guy who refuses to lose. Nothing can be better than this. I predict that this fight will be considered the Fight of the Year for 2022.”