Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol better put any hopes of undisputed on ice, as the WBC have made it clear that the former is tied up for two fights.
Beterbiev was originally booked to defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight belts against Anthony Yarde in October of this year, however an injury to the champion caused plans to be postponed until 2023. Now due to face off in January, if Beterbiev beat the London light heavy his path was thought to be clear to face off against WBA Champion, Bivol.
Yarde, now 22-2 as a pro, has been building himself back up from losses to Sergey Kovalev and Lyndon Arthur, the second of which he avenged. ‘The Beast From The East’ has found himself ranked number 1 with the WBO, hence the planned fight with their champion.
The WBC have intervened though, confirming at their annual convention that whoever wins in January will have a mandatory challenger to honour – Callum Smith. The Merseyside man has had two impressive victories at 175lb, and it’s well known he wants to challenge for the highest honours in his new division. Smith previously held the WBA title at super middleweight, but lost it in his one career defeat to Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez.
The announcement from the sanctioning body comes just after Bivol decisively beat Gilberto Ramirez to hold onto his WBA strap and put himself firmly in the conversation for fighter of the year. Following the victory, he confirmed that he wanted to build on his legacy by becoming undisputed at light heavyweight.
WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman’s ruling has put those plans on pause, and it’s now likely that we see Bivol back in the ring with Canelo, giving the Mexican a chance to avenge his defeat this year. If both Bivol and Beterbiev continue winning and stay injury-free, seeing an undisputed champ in the division could be a reality as 2024 approaches.
There will also be the potential of working with the governing bodies to make unifying the belts take precedence, in which case Smith may be asked to sit on the sidelines and face the winner of the historic bout.