Artur Beterbiev seized control of the light heavyweight division with a round 2 TKO of Joe Smith Jr. to claim the IBF, WBC, and WBO titles.
Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) dropped Smith three times in two rounds at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden to add Smith’s WBO title to his IBF and WBC light heavyweight belts. Originally from Russia and residing in Canada, Beterbiev fought Smith in Smith’s home state of New York but ran through him in short order.
The 37-year-old Beterbiev collected his 18th KO to keep his 100 percent KO streak alive. He connected with a right hook in round 1, which dropped Smith to the canvas. Smith got up and closed the round, but Beterbiev controlled the momentum.
Artur Beterbiev knocked Joe Smith Jr. down four times in two rounds to win via round 2 TKO
In round 2, Beterbiev flattened Smith twice more with right hooks. Smith got up both times, but the damage was done. In the final minute, Beterbiev nailed Smith with a right uppercut, right hook combo, which leveled Smith for the third and final time.
The referee stopped the fight at 2:19 in round 2, giving Beterbiev the TKO win. Beterbiev was the favorite, but he finished Smith off faster than expected.
Dmitry Bivol is the WBO champion, and he successfully defended his title against Canelo Alvarez via unanimous decision in May.
Alvarez moves back down to super middleweight in a trilogy bout against Gennadiy Golvokin in September, which means Bivol is available for a unification contest against Beterbiev. If the two can strike a deal, an undisputed light heavyweight boxing champion could be crowned this year. Hopefully, the business will set the stage for Beterbiev vs. Bivol by year’s end.