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Artur Beterbiev demolishes Joe Smith Jr, collects another light heavyweight title

Beterbiev is the WBO, WBC, and IBF light heavyweight champion.

Artur Beterbiev stopped Joe Smith Jr in New York.
Artur Beterbiev stopped Joe Smith Jr in New York.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The much anticipated unification fight was a blowout.

WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) now holds three of the four major light heavyweight titles in boxing after it took him less than six minutes to wreck WBO champion Joe Smith Jr (28-4, 22 KOs) in front of a partisan crowd of New York support at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Beterbiev scored three knockdowns and just about had a fourth, but Harvey Dock had seen enough and a wobbly Smith Jr was spared further punishment.

This was a fight billed as puncher vs. puncher, but the skill and power differential was on full display here. Beterbiev could not miss with his right hand — the money punch of Smith Jr, mind you — and he clubbed him late in the opening round to score a knockdown, the first time Smith Jr had ever been dropped. In the second and final round, Beterbiev thumped Smith with a flurry of shots culminating in another right that saw the Long Island native sag against the ropes. He beat the count, but you could tell that Smith was outmatched. A third knockdown followed and the countdown was on for when the knockout would occur.

Beterbiev’s lethal uppercuts damn near lifted Smith Jr off his feet, and as he was stumbling all over the place the referee called it off.

Artur Beterbiev def. Joe Smith Jr by TKO at 2:19 of Round 2 to become the WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion

The undefeated record is intact, the 100% KO record is intact, and now only Dmitry Bivol stands in the 37-year-old’s way of becoming undisputed champion. It won’t be Bivol next, as a deal is in place for Artur to take on one-time title challenger Anthony Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) in the United Kingdom in October, but in 2023 we may see an undisputed showdown if the form guide holds up.

For Smith Jr, it’s the end of his time as champion after a single successful defense against Steve Geffrard, and it’s only the second stoppage loss of his career. Smith figured to have at least a puncher’s chance, but he didn’t even have that. He was in there with one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.