Boxing: The end of an incredible streak for Artur Beterbiev?

Don’t miss the fight between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. on Saturday at 10 p.m. on RDS2 and RDS Direct.

MONTREAL — Since beginning his career in the pro ranks, Artur Beterbiev has beaten every opponent he’s faced before the limit. Seventeen times in as many fights, Christian Gauthier had to stay in suspense like no other announcer in the world to announce the winner of a duel with the Russian-born Montrealer.

From Christian Cruz to Marcus Browne to former world champions Tavoris Cloud and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) has always found the flaw that ultimately broke them. This is the second longest active streak of its kind after the 18 KO. in as many appearances by Vergil Ortiz Jr., who has yet to claim a championship fight.

But that incredible streak could come to an end on Saturday night when the unified WBC and IBF light heavyweight champion takes on WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. in a unification bout Saturday night at New York’s legendary Madison Square Theater Garden.

Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) has been stopped before, but that was early in his career in his seventh duel by a certain Eddie Caminero, who broke his cheek in the second round. “It was a broken cheek. It really is bag. What can I tell you? ‘ Smith recalled during an interview with the columnist ofESPN Markus Kriegel.

That was in August 2010. History repeated itself a few years later in July 2017 against Sullivan Barrera. Smith had knocked Barrera down in the first round due to his win over Bernard Hopkins, only for the Cuban to hit him massively in the second round.

“I knew right away it was broken,” Smith said. But this time the context was completely different. The shock was not organized in a small, unassuming room in Brooklyn. No, it was on the Inglewood Forum and was widely broadcast HBO.

“I thought I wasn’t going to give up,” Smith continued. If this is going to be my last fight, I’ll finish it on my own two feet. And I’m still here. I’m still here. »

The former worker who now owns his pruning business is one of three division champions. He joined Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol in April 2021 after beating Maxim Vlasov. The victory was hard fought by majority decision of the judges.

“At some point in the fight I went back into the corner after one round and said yes [mon entraîneur] Jerry [Capobianco] I didn’t know how I was going to get there to win,” Smith said in a recent episode of the documentary. blood, sweat and tears fromESPN.

“The broken cheeks, the defeat [à mon premier combat de championnat du monde] Bivol versus… all I could think of. It’s not true that I had to endure all this to not have managed to become world champion. I really wanted to be world champion. »

The pitfalls aren’t exclusive to Smith, however. Although he has never suffered defeat, Beterbiev knows his. Who doesn’t remember the horrendous cut he sustained in his last bout against Browne at the Bell Center last December?

As Beterbiev started to find his stride, an accidental header turned his clash into a bloodbath from the 4th round. With the risk of the duel being called off at any moment, the unified champion had no choice but to put pressure on his rival. He eventually won by referee stoppage early in the 9th round.

The only thing that could possibly defeat Beterbiev is the wear and tear of time. At 37, there inevitably comes a day when his performance begins to decline…

“Why are you reminding me that I’m 37?” Beterbiev asked mockingly at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. I keep asking my coach [Marc Ramsay] and my fitness trainer [André Kulesha] if I do it less than two years ago. And they tell me no, on the contrary, I do it even more than two years ago! »

“He really looks like he’s 100 percent,” Smith even confirmed. Age does not catch up with him! »

Incidentally, it’s the first time since the beginning of his career that Long Island native Smith has had a chance to fight The most famous arena in the world. An element that must certainly be taken into account in his desire to finish the fight on his two feet. For Beterbiev, who is also celebrating a debut at MSG, it will be a duel like any other.

“It’s an important fight, but the place where it is presented changes absolutely nothing for me,” concluded Beterbiev. Montreal, New York or anywhere else…it’s the same!

“My goal is to be the best in the world and add another belt. That’s all! »

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