WBC, WBO and IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev 20-0 (20) destroyed Callum Smith 29-2 (21) in seven rounds at the Videotron Center in Quebec City, Canada on Saturday night.
The victory keeps alive the dream of a four-belt unification bout against WBA 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol 22-0 (11) later this year.
Russian-born Canadian Beterbiev, 38, is usually a slow starter but this time around he got out of the blocks quickly, letting his hands go in the opening round.
Britain’s Smith, 33, got some good work done in a close second round while Beterbiev started landing his heavy shots to the body and head with increased frequency in the third.
Sensing he had little choice but to bang it out with Beterbiev, Smith traded bombs with the champion in the fourth but got the worse of the exchanges. There was a slight lull in the action in the fifth before things heated up again in the sixth with Beterbiev targeting the head of Smith with power punches.
Beterbiev was all over Smith in the seventh, hurting him with big shots before a right hand put the challenger down. Smith beat the count but Beterbiev was all over him, dropping him again. It was enough for Smith’s trainer Buddy McGirt to climb into the ring and call off the contest.
It was the first time Smith, who fought Beterbiev in an 18-foot by 18-foot ring, had ever been dropped. The official time of the stoppage was 2:00 of round number seven.
“Again, it’s because of luck. It’s my coach, our team is working hard with me. We had a couple strategies. We always have more than one. We need to be prepared for several strategies. He gave me a good fight, he stayed strong. Thanks to him. Today, luck is on my side,” said Beterbiev.
The fight that the boxing world is clamouring for is a clash between Beterbiev and Kyrgyzstan-born Russian Bivol, 33, who was last in action on the massive ‘Day of Reckoning’ card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 23 when he successfully defended his belt against Britain’s Lyndon Arthur 23-2 (16) on points.
Beterbiev’s promoter Bob Arum confirmed that talks have been progressing well for the bout and that he anticipates it will happen this year.
“It’s not done yet. But absolutely we want to do it,” the Top Rank head honcho said. “I’ll be talking to my friend His Excellency Turki Alalshikh. I know he wants to do it, but Ramadan is coming. So, about three months after the end Ramadan we’ll be ready to fight Dmitry Bivol, probably in Riyadh.”
Beterbiev is keen for the fight too.
“Yes, of course,” he said when asked about the fight. “I need another belt. It would mean a lot to me.”