Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr.’s light heavyweight unification fight will be taking place in June with the winner to face either Canelo Alvarez or Anthony Yarde.
Arum isn’t sure what Canelo’s plans will be for later this year, so he’ll go ahead and match the Beterbiev-Smith Jr. winner against WBO 175-lb mandatory challenger Yarde (28-2, 21 KOs) in the UK in October or November.
Unbeaten IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) and WBO champion Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 KOs) will fight in a unification match for three titles in June.
The two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev, 36, will be taking on a big puncher in Smith, who is coming into his prime after thirteen years in the pro ranks.
Arum says he would have scheduled the Beterbiev-Smith unification fight for April, but it’s Ramadan, and Beterbiev won’t be able to fight or train during that time.
“There will be a unification battle between Joe Smith and Artur Beterbiev,” Top Rank promoter Arum said to The Lowdown. “Artur Beterbiev has two of the titles [IBF & WBC], and Joe Smith has the WBO title
“That fight with Joe Smith [and Beterbiev] will be at the end of June,” Arum continued.
Beterbiev recently successfully defended his IBF/WBC titles against WBC mandatory Marcus Browne on December 17th, winning a ninth round knockout in a bloody war at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
Both fighters were cut from a clash of heads in the fourth round, which turned the fight into a brawl from that point on. Beterbiev looked upset after Browne banged heads with him, cutting him over his right eye.
For his part, Smith Jr. successfully defended his WBO 175-lb title for the first time last month, stopping replacement opponent Steve Geffrard in the ninth round on January 15th at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
Smith had been previously scheduled to face Callum Johnson, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t fight.
“I promised Frank that if a fight with Canelo doesn’t materialize right afterward, which is no reason for me to believe that it will, we’re happy to come over here, whether it’s Beterbiev or Joe Smith, to fight Yarde here in London sometime in the fall,” said Arum.
Yarde, 30, looked spectacular on December 4th, stopping Lyndon Arthur in the fourth in their rematch at the Copper Box Arena in London.
When the smoke clears from the Beterbiev vs. Smith Jr fight, the winner could potentially face Canelo Alvarez if he’s not tied down with another fight.
However, Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) could be signing a two-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn & DAZN to face WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on May 7th and Gennadiy Golovkin on September 17th.
If Canelo accepts the 2-fight deal from Hearn, he won’t be available to fight the Beterbeiv-Smith Jr. winner until 2023.