Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr are set to unify a trio of light heavyweight titles tonight on ESPN, in what promises to be a hard-hitting main event.
In the night’s co-feature, Robeisy Ramirez will face Abraham Nova in a good featherweight matchup set for 10 rounds, and there will also be prelims on ESPN+ featuring notable Top Rank prospects Jahi Tucker, Troy Isley, Bruce Carrington, Floyd Diaz, and more.
Wil Esco will be on the round by round call for the main card fights starting at 10 pm ET, and I’ll be in here from 6:30 pm ET for the prelims with highlights and results, all of that in this stream:
When Joe Smith Jr. narrowly defeated Maxim Vlasov in April 2021 to win the WBO light heavyweight title, a unification bout with WBC and IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev instantly became a can't-miss matchup.
Two of the biggest punchers in boxing will meet on Saturday at New York's Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden (10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+ with prelims on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET) in what shapes up as an explosive action fight for as long as it lasts. Beterbiev, boxing's only champion with a 100% KO percentage, is an 8-1 favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook, and with good reason.
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Saturday, June 18, 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+: Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr. undercard
Saturday, June 18, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+: Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr., 12 rounds, for Beterbiev's WBC and IBF light heavyweight titles and Smith's WBO light heavyweight title
Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), of Russia, is consistently on the cusp of the pound-for-pound list -- if not in the top 10. He is a precise puncher who knows just where and when to place his shots, and has the engine to carry that power into the later rounds.
Never was that more on display than against Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October 2019, a title unification Beterbiev won via 10th-round TKO after he floored his foe three times.
But Beterbiev is 37 and showed vulnerability when he was knocked down by Callum Johnson in a 2018 fight. And he's been inactive, competing only twice since he defeated Gvozdyk. And during that time, Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) has shown vast improvement.
By Mark Eisner: Light heavyweight champions Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. headline tonight in a unification fight at 175 on ESPN. The action will be shown on ESPN and ESPN+ from madison Square Garden in New York.
That’s the expectation heading into this one and, really, what else can it be? Two fighters with big knockout numbers and come forward styles isn’t going to result in Leonard-Benitez. There are nights for the sweet science.
This isn’t one.
The skills employed will be in pursuit of violence. If this one makes it the distance, it might be the biggest upset of 2022. Who can take more? Who can land more viciously? Those are the questions to ask as we prepare to see three light heavyweight belts unified on Saturday night (ESPN, 10 PM EST).
The reigning lineal king, IBF/WBC titlist Artur Beterbiev, has yet to lose or go the distance. Smith makes his second defense of the WBO belt with only one stoppage loss on his record way back in 2010. Smith has been outboxed. He hasn’t been outfought in years.