McGuigan Backs Smith for Upset Bid Against Beterbiev: Feet and Left Hooks the Keys to Victory

By Rob Smith - 01/13/2024 - Comments

Trainer Shane McGuigan thinks Callum Smith could pull off an upset tonight of undefeated IBF, WBC & WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev in their fight on ESPN in Quebec City.

McGuigan feels Beterbeiv (19-0, 19 KOs) will leave his head on the line after throwing one of his right hands, leaving him open to a left hook counter from the powerful Smith (29-1, 21 KOs).

He sees the 38-year-old Beterbiev showing signs of decline and notes that he’s had a lot of fights, 400 as an amateur that has contributed to it.

McGuigan feels that Beterbiev was at his best five years ago when he stopped WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk in the 11th round in a fight that he was losing at the time. In Beterbiev’s last fight against Anthony Yarde, he had to rally to stop him in the eighth round.

Vulnerability Number One: Age and Mileage

“I think he might cause an upset. I wouldn’t put my house on it,” said Shane McGuigan to Boxing News, seeing Callum Smith potentially defeating IBF/WBC/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev tonight in Quebec City, Canada.

“I can see Beterbiev hitting him and not hurting him back, and then Callum going into his shell and getting through rounds, and everyone will say, ‘Oh, why didn’t you press it?’ Because he knew if he pressed it, he might get badly hurt and I can see Beterbiev winning on points or Callum Smith potentially taking him out when Beterbiev gets greedy,” said McGuigan.

Fans feel that Smith has been matched too weakly to pull off the upset, as he’s looked bad when he’s been stepped up against better opposition. He does not react well to pressure, and seems to fold, retreating to the ropes when his opponents attack.

“I would lean more towards Beterbiev winning on points than Callum Smith knocking him out, but I can definitely see it,” said McGuigan.

“I think the age, the 400 amateur fights, the hard training camps, keeping his body in that shape. I think he’s 38 years of age with zero body fat on him,” said McGuigan about Beterbiev.

“You need a little bit of surplus as you get older. He looked his best when he boxed the Ukrainian [Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October 2019 and knocked him out in the eleventh round]. He looked his best then. He’s slightly been in decline.

“Anthony Yarde isn’t a true reflection of what Beterbiev is about because, in my opinion, it was so obvious what Yarde was going to do. You could see his shots coming. He was winging. He was playing possum, and then he was winging and trying to follow up with his attacks.”

Once Beterbiev went on the attack in the seventh round, Yarde drained like a battery and was easy prey to be finished off in the eighth round. Before that, Yarde was having success throwing uppercuts, but that was all he had, and once Beterbiev figured him out, the fight was over quickly.

The Left Hook: Smith’s Secret Weapon

“Beterbiev, with his great feet and great jab, he was just negating that and then tired him out and took him out,” said McGuigan. “Callum Smith is a much better operator than Yarde. He can fight at all ranges. His feet are going to be the problem in this fight. That’s what I believe.

“He’s got great leverage on his shots. Beterbiev leaves his head on the line, and anyone that leaves their head on the line when they throw a right hand can get hit with a left hook by Callum Smith. George Groves got nailed by a left hook when he left his head on the line when he threw a right hand, and Callum Smith is a fantastic puncher; he’s a world-class puncher.

“He punches, it’s mid to short range for him because he’s 6’4″, it’s long range for those guys,” said McGuigan.

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