The WBC, WBO, and IBF light-heavyweight titles will be on the line Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, as the Hulu Theater will play host to a great night of fights. The heavy favorite, Arter Beterbiev, will be putting his belts on the line and his “0,” having yet to lose a professional fight since turning professional.
His challenger, Joe Smith Jr., will have his work cut out for him but is an elite fighter in his own right, having fought some of the best the division has to offer.
Let’s take a closer look at how things could shake out Saturday night in New York City.
These odds were taken from DraftKings Sportsbook on June 15, 2022
Artur Beterbiev (17-0-0, 17 KOs) vs. Joe Smith Jr. (28-3-0, 22 KOs)
Following an extensive amateur career that includes winning a World Championship and two European Championship Gold medals, Beterbiev turned professional in 2013 and quickly showed his dominance by winning the WBA light heavyweight belt in 2014. Three years later, Beterbiev added to his closet to pick up the IBF light heavyweight strap, defeating Enrico Kolling in the 12th round via KO.
Beterbiev added the WBC light heavyweight belt in 2019 by beating Oleksandr Gvozdyka via TKO in the 10th. Coming into this fight, not only has Beterbiev beaten every opponent put in front of him, but he has done so via KO/TKO.
Smith Jr. made his professional debut in 2009 and became known very quickly as a KO/TKO assassin. Picking up 11 straight wins via KO to start his career, Smith Jr. has won 22 of his 28 professional wins before the final bell.
He is also known for ending Bernard Hopkins’s career, whom he defeated in 2016 via TKO, the last fight of Hopkins’s career. Since losing to current WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in 2019, Smith Jr. has rattled off four straight wins to set up this career-defining fight in his hometown of New York City.
While Beterbiev (-700) is a massive favorite for a good reason, given the heaviness of his fists, I think we could see this one drag into the later rounds if Smith Jr. can withstand the early pressure. In Beterbiev’s last three wins, which all came by KO/TKO, all have lasted past the start of the 9th round.
Facing a grizzled veteran in Smith Jr., who has only lost inside the distance once very early on his career, I think we see Beterbiev struggle to end this one as he would like. While I do believe the favorite gets it done, I think we’re looking at the first decision win of his career.
Pick: Artur Beterbiev by Decision or Technical Decision (+380)
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