Callum Smith will take some time to consider his future after having his hopes of becoming a two-weight world champion ruthlessly ended by WBC, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev.
Boxers are masters at finding a glimmer of hope in the gloom but Smith will find the seventh round stoppage defeat harder to rebound from than his 2020 decision loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
When Smith sat down to figure out what went wrong against ‘Canelo’ he could at least find solace in the fact that he had taken the fight with the Mexican superstar at relatively short notice. He also suffered a significant arm injury during the fight and after boiling his 6ft 3in frame down the super middleweight limit maybe one time too many, he had new challenges to look forward to at 175lbs. It will be harder to find any positives in the aftermath of the defeat to Beterbiev.
“I’m disappointed. I’m used to being the best. I believed I was the best and to accept that I’m not is a hard one to take. The better man won tonight. He stopped me getting into my rhythm. He’s good at just touching, touching and he stopped me getting any momentum,” a downcast but honest Smith told Sky Sports after the fight.
“He’s a bit like my brother Liam. He’s just always constantly touching, it’s just that his touching is a little bit harder. He’s stopped me but up until the knockdown I didn’t feel anything power wise. It’s more that he’s constantly touching you and stopping you getting any sort of rhythm. No excuses. The better man won tonight. My performance wasn’t the best but he’s a good champion. He turned up and done what he’s meant to do.”
Smith (29-2, 21 KO’s) now has a big decision to make. He isn’t the type of fighter who would be satisfied by dropping back down to domestic level and, at 33 years old, will need to decide whether he wants to steel himself for another assault on the summit of the light heavyweight division. There are no shortcuts back to the top.
Beterbiev is all but certain to fight WBA champion, Dmitry Bivol, in an eagerly awaited fight to decide who the undisputed champion is at 175lbs. Smith could bide his time and wait to see if the belts become fragmented once Beterbiev and Bivol have concluded their business but would need to fight his way into position. After a successful career in which he cleaned up domestically and emerged victorious from the prestigious World Boxing Super Series with the WBA super middleweight title, we may have seen Smith in the ring for the final time.
“I’ve always set the bar very high. I’ve always wanted to be the best. I’ve always believed I was the best and now it’s hard to take that I’m not,” he said.
“I’ve got an amazing family at home. I give a lot to boxing. I think win or lose, I didn’t want to stay in boxing for a long time. I’m not making any decisions but it’s time to assess the future and see if I’ve got any goals that motivate me to go back to the gym. If not, we’ll see.
“I’m going to go and spend time with my family. I’ve been a little bit quiet over Christmas. I’ve got two little ones at home and I’ve missed them this week so I’m going to go and spend some time with my family and then we’ll see what the future holds.”