The WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight belts are on the line with Beterbiev vs Smith Jr. on Saturday in New York.
Joe Smith Jr. has a lot of experience and the WBO belt. He is the massive underdog but his chances can’t be overlooked.
Power Advantage with Beterbiev
We have little doubt that Beterbiev vs Smith Jr. will produce some of the best boxing this year and it could come from the favorite.
Although the light heavyweight division is wide open, Beterbiev has established himself as a leading contender, despite ranking second in the overall standings.
It’s difficult to look past his 17-0 record with 17 knockouts, which has showcased his immense power. The Russian-born Canadian has faced strong opponents such as Marcus Browne and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, so he hasn’t been dodging the tough opponents and that bodes well when facing Smith Jr.
Despite his age, Beterbiev has a lot of potential, which is why he’s the -800 favorite to defeat Smith Jr and continue his legacy.
Eddie Hearn, who always has a keen eye on this division, expects Beterbiev to come out ahead.
“At the moment, you have a very clustered division because you’ve got two champions. Well, you’ve got three champions about to become two, and the shots aren’t really there,” Hearn told Boxing News.
“There’s only going to be one champion after that fight for those belts [IBF, WBC & WBO], and [WBA champion] Dmitry Bivol. But I do believe Beterbiev wins that fight.”
Bettors who don’t want to take the -800 for Beterbiev to win could find value in knockout markets. He has a -250 chance to win by knockout with boxing odds, which is where the value resides.
Is Smith Jr. Done?
There might be some fight left with Smith Jr., who bounced back from a loss with solid victories.
In 2019, the American boxer was defeated by Dmitry Bivol by unanimous decision in a one-sided fight, but he came back with four straight victories. Jesse Hart, Eleider Alvarez, Maxim Vlasov, and Steve Geffrard were all defeated by Smith Jr.
His knockout victory over Alvarez was his best, but it was too close for comfort against Vlasov in 2021 and it’s those fights that concern bettors.
The younger fighter, at 32, is the +500 underdog to beat Beterbiev. It’s a tough ask but he owns 22 knockouts from 28 fights and that’s a handy record.
We respect the opinion of boxing commentator Joe Tessitore, who believes Smith Jr. has improved since his loss.
“I’m a firm believer in this fighting game that nobody stays the same,” said Tessitore. “You get better or you get worse. Joe Smith has gotten better.
“This is a guy that you mention burst through against Fonfara six years ago, burst through the broken jaw against Barrera, hurting Bivol but not having enough time and coming up short there.”
Beterbiev vs Smith Jr. could lift the roof off Madison Square Garden but it requires Smith Jr. to come to the party. He needs to improve on his recent fights if he’s to end the dream unbeaten run of the two-belt champion.
We’re not prepared to back him at the big odds and Beterbiev should be crowned the unified light heavyweight champion.Follow us on Twitter