Eddie Hearn has spent weeks talking about the vivid visions which visited him whenever he closed his eyes. Visions of Callum Smith knocking out Artur Beterbiev with a left hook and returning to England as the new unified light heavyweight champion. Reality set in quickly last Saturday night.
Beterbiev put in an almost flawless display and dominated the talented former super middleweight champion from the opening seconds of their fight in a snow covered Quebec City. It was expected that the 38 year old Russian-Canadian would be physically stronger but he also outboxed Smith, setting up his trademark bludgeoning attacks with a surgical jab. Smith is a vicious puncher himself but when he did land, Beterbiev walked straight through it.
Smith’s resolve was broken in the seventh round. After seeing his fighter floored twice, the Liverpudlian’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, sensibly stopped the fight and saved his fighter from absorbing any more punishment. Unbeaten Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KO’s) dominated the bout from start to finish and maintained his 100% knockout ratio as well as retaining his WBC, IBF and WBO titles.
“You’re fighting a guy that’s not human,” Hearn told Boxing News magnanimously after the fight. “He’s not breathing, every short hurts. Even in the clinches you see how strong he is. I’m not sure anything like it before really. It’s like it’s not right. It’s like an unfair advantage.
“I thought Beterbiev was good defensively tonight as well. He was a lot more switched on and sharp because I think he knew about the power of Callum Smith.”
All attention will now switch to Saudi Arabia where a deal for Beterbiev to meet the WBA’s 175lb champion, Dmitry Bivol, has apparently been agreed in principle. Unbeaten Bivol outboxed Lyndon Arthur in December to hold up his end of the bargain and after Beterbiev’s impressive performance against Smith, we look set to crown an undisputed light heavyweight champion at some point in 2024.
Hearn also promotes Bivol and although he believes his man has the technical ability to win the fight, witnessing Beterbiev go about his business in person hammered home the the scale of the task he faces.
“I always back our guys. I truly believed Callum Smith would win tonight and I truly believe that Bivol would win but that’s the second time I’ve seen him up close and he’s actually a lot better than he was against Callum Johnson [who Beterbiev got off the floor to beat in 2018]. I know he’s getting older and you hope he’s slowing down but he’s not. That was – I thought – one of his best performances,” Hearn said.
“Dmitry Bivol has tremendous movement but you’ve almost got to make a dent. It’s very difficult to outbox him over 12 rounds. He’s gonna wear you down and force the pressure and the shots around the back of the head and on the ears really hurt.
“I think Dmitry can do it but it’s the only fight for both guys now.”