Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) is one title away from becoming undisputed light heavyweight champion following his two-round destruction over Joe Smith Jr (28-4, 22 KOs).
Billed as two power punchers in a fight never destined to go 12 both men got down to work in the first round as Smith went on the front foot. The Long Island native, fighting in New York, had the backing of the fans as patriotic chants of “U-S-A” bellowed around the Hulu Theatre inside Madison Square Garden. The aggressive tactics was a bold move from the WBO champion, but it played into the Canadian-based Russian’s hands who whipped over a right hand early on to remind everyone how big a task this was.
Smith focused on the jab and hunted Beterbiev around the ring. The WBC and IBF champion had to be nimble on his toes and showed he’s more than just a hard-hitting bruiser by keeping Smith at bay with versatility and nimbleness.
In the final ten seconds Smith was down. A right hand to the top of the head was thrown with the kind of speed the American hadn’t been used to since losing to WBA title holder Dmitry Bivol. Smith was down but in a split second his knee bounced him back up. It was quick, sudden, and worrying how Beterbiev got to him.
The second round started off with a Beterbiev uppercut, a shot that would prove decisive at the end. Smith was in deep waters without any help as a shark moved in smelling blood ready to drag his man down to depths he couldn’t recover from. Another right hand put Smith down 50 seconds into the second session. It was when not if. An uppercut then dual punches from either side almost put the home favourite through the ropes.
The “U-S-A” chants were no more. Smith went head-first after Beterbiev. It was bravery while dazed and confused because a left uppercut jolted the blue collar 32-year-old. A right uppercut followed, then one more shot landed for good measure. Referee Harvey Dock knew what was coming and waved the fight off before the underdog was knocked out.
Wearing black trunks, socks, and boots Beterbiev looked every inch a throwback fighter just as Smith is portrayed as. Tonight, should have lasted longer. Becoming a three-belt champion should not be accomplished in five minutes but this was a statement of intent from the Russian. A statement of bad intentions that may have next opponent Anthony Yarde and the rest of the division worried.
Beterbiev vs Smith highlights
Fight highlights courtesy of Sky Sports Boxing and Top Rank Boxing on Twitter:
💣𝐃𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐌𝐚𝐧💣@ABeterbiev is now a 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 belt champ after flooring Joe Smith Jr four times before winning by second round stoppage👑👑👑
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) June 19, 2022
Artur Beterbiev is one bad, bad man 😳@BoostMobile x #BeterbievSmithpic.twitter.com/wwIjgjeXk3
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) June 19, 2022