Artur Beterbiev closes in on Dmitry Bivol bout in Riyadh after demolishing Callum Smith

Unified light-heavyweight champion maintains 100 per cent knockout record by stopping British fighter in seventh round

Artur Beterbiev lands a punch on Callum Smith during their light-heavyweight title fight in Quebec City, Canada. on January 13, 2024. AFP
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Artur Beterbiev stayed on course for a mouth-watering fight against Dmitry Bivol in Saudi Arabia after brutally stopping Callum Smith in the seventh round on Saturday.

The former Russian Olympian, now fighting out of Canada, secured his 20th knockout in as many fights to retain his WBC, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight crowns in Quebec City. He was ahead 58-56, 58-56, and 59-55 when the fight was stopped.

Beterbiev floored his British challenger twice in the seventh round before Smith's corner entered ring and asked referee Michael Griffin to call off the contest.

The 38-year-old's latest impressive victory sets up a potential unification bout against fellow Russian and WBA champion Bivol (22-0 with 11 knockouts) in Riyadh later this year.

“I need a fourth belt. It would mean in this category I have done my work,” said Beterbiev, who aims to become the first undisputed light-heavyweight champion in the four-belt era.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is confident Beterbiev-Bivol will take place in the Saudi capital this summer. “It's not done yet,” he said in the ring after the fight. “But absolutely we want to do it. I'll be talking to my friend His Excellency [Saudi Advisor] 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.”

Smith went into the bout having never been stopped in his professional career but the former super-middleweight champion fell to only the second defeat in 31 fights.

The bout was due to take place last August but was postponed after a bone infection required Beterbiev to have jaw surgery.

Beterbiev, who won his first world title in 2017, defended the three titles for the second time, having stopped Britain's Anthony Yarde in the eighth round last January in London in his most recent outing.

Smith last fought in August 2022 when he stopped France's Mathieu Bauderlique in the fourth round to earn his chance against Beterbiev at the Videotron Center.

Beterbiev started quickly, catching and hurting Smith in the first round, as the bout settled into a rhythm, the patient champion measuring the challenger early.

Smith's right eye was swollen by the third round and Beterbiev landed a powerful right uppercut to the chin as well as hard body shots.

A flurry of punishing punches by the champion to Smith's head in the fourth round stunned the Englishman, whose nose began bleeding in the fifth round, setting up the finish.

A hard right hand by Beterbiev to the side of Smith's head was the stunner that set up a series of punishing lefts to the head and a final right-left combination crumpled the Englishman to the canvas for the first time in his career 70 seconds into the seventh round.

Smith rose against the ropes but Beterbiev quickly landed a five-punch combination to drop the challenger to the canvas again. Smith's corner halted the bout moments later.

When asked why no opponent has been able to go the distance with him, Beterbiev joked: “You know it's because of luck. It's my coach working hard with me, maybe that's why too. But I think it's because of luck.

“We had a couple of strategies. We always have more than one. We need to be prepared for several strategies. He gave me a good fight. He stayed strong. He's good. Thanks to him. But today, luck is on my side.”

Bivol, 33, last fought on the undercard of the 'Day of Reckoning' in Saudi Arabia in December when he eased to a comprehensive points victory over Lyndon Arthur at the Kingdom Arena.

“It was good sparring for me,” Bivol said after beating the Briton. “I'm glad that the end of the year I got this fight and now I see my way to my goal, to undisputed [championship] against the winner of Beterbiev-Smith. I hope this fight will happen in 2024.”

Updated: January 14, 2024, 11:09 AM