By Mike Smith: Artur Beterbiev has reportedly decided not to defend his IBF light heavyweight title against Joe Smith Jr. on the undercard of Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Rocky Fielding on December 15. Instead of fighting Smith (24-2, 20 KOs) on the Canelo-Fielding card in December, Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) will fight him in early 2019, according to Le Journal de Montreal.
This is bad news for Matchroom Boxing USA promoter Eddie Hearn, as well as for Golden Boy Promotions. Having Beterbiev on the card against Joe Smith would have added to the card. Beterbiev is a great talent. The casual boxing fans still don’t know who Beterbiev is, but the hardcore fans are familiar with him and enjoy seeing him fight.
Beterbiev, 33, is coming off of a hard fought 4th round knockout victory over Callum Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) on October 6. Beterbiev wanted more time to prepare for the power punching Smith Jr. Getting back into the ring so soon after the Johnson fight was too soon for Beterbiev.
Johnson, 32, knocked Beterbiev down in round two of their fight last month at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. Beterbiev got back to his feet and was able to weather the storm to make it out of the round, but he was hurt. If not for Johnson making a calculated error of not going for the knockout, Beterbiev likely would have been stopped. Johnson let Beterbiev off the hook by not realizing how hurt he was and giving too much respect.
Losing the Beterbiev-Smith fight will hurt the Canelo vs. Fielding card, as it was easily the best match on the undercard. The only fight that is official for the card as of now is David Lemieux vs. Tureano Johnson. That’s a good fight, but it’s difficult to predict whether it’ll be an explosive affair or not due to Lemieux’s recent history of coming into his fights in less than 100 percent. With Beterbiev, you know he’s going to be in top shape and will give it his all to look great. The Canelo-Fielding card has some good fighters on the card, but they still don’t have opponents yet. These are the fighters on the card:
– Ryan Garcia
– Tevin Farmer
– Katie Taylor
– Yves Ulysse Jr
The Canelo vs. Fielding card needs one big signature fight for their undercard to help draw interest from the boxing public to want to watch the card. Since the main event between Canelo and Fielding isn’t an appealing one, they need an interesting undercard fight to pull in the fans. Ryan Garcia is not a big enough name to get the boxing fans to want to see the card. Lemieux is a good fighter, but he’s already been beaten a number of times during his career, and he’s too unpredictable.
Beterbiev is one of the best fighter in the light heavyweight division today. He hasn’t had the chance to prove that he’s the best overall fighter in the 175 lb weight class due to injuries, inactivity and the lack of interest from the other fighters to face him. That could change in the future if Beterbiev keeps winning. He’s now co-promoted by Matchroom Boxing USA promoter Eddie Hearn, who wants to keep him busy fighting frequently on his DAZN cards in the U.S.