By Charles Brun: Callum Smith has his work cut out for him in his title challenge against IBF, WBC & WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev on January 13th at the Centre Videotron, Quebec City, Canada.
Callum will be in uncharted territory and will have to rely on his instincts to get through the fight.
On paper, the 6’4″ stork-like Callum has very little chance of defeating the two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev because he showed his level in his one-sided loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2020 and in his controversial twelve round unanimous decision win over John Ryder in November 2019 in his hometown of Liverpool, England.
Does Callum deserve a title shot?
Callum looked awful in both of those fights, and he should have done the right thing by giving Ryder a rematch in a neutral venue, like London. Instead of running it back against Ryder, Callum moved on and got a massive payday against Canelo in 2020, and he’s fought just twice since then.
Charles Brun doesn’t know what it is about fighting Canelo. Once a fighter faces him, their careers slow to a crawl as ambition goes out the window, and they’re never the same. Getting all that loot destroys motivation.
The Beterbiev-Smith fight was initially scheduled for August 19th but was postponed until January 13th due to Beterbiev’s need for dental surgery.
Callum’s trainer, James ‘Buddy’ McGirt, says he’s not bothered about the delay in the fight, and it’s understandable because he needs as much preparation time as possible for him to get ready for the unbeaten Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs).
Callum (29-1, 21 KOs) is getting this title shot against Beterbiev on a silver platter without having had to work for it like regular fighters, as all he did to get the opportunity was beat veteran Lenin Castillo and little-known Mathieu Bauderlique to become the WBC mandatory.
Ideally, Callum should have had to beat these contenders to get a crack at Beterbiev’s belts:
“Callum is really laid back, so nothing really bothers him. If it’s put off a couple of months, he said, ‘No problem,’” said trainer ‘Buddy’ McGirt to Light Out, talking about Callum Smith not being upset with his fight with IBF, WBC & WBO light heavyweight champion Beterbiev being postponed until January 13th.
If you’re Callum, you probably want as much time as possible to prepare for Beterbiev because he is really up against it with this fight. Callum is basically going to be flying by the seat of his pants against Beterbiev, as he hasn’t fought the right opposite to adequately prepare himself for what’s in store for him.
“The key is not to focus on what he’s going to do. It’s what we have to do to win the fight and then go from there,” said Buddy about the formidable task that is in front of Smith against the unbeaten Beterbiev.
Beterbiev still firing on all cylinders
“Listen, Beterbiev hasn’t been a champion this long for nothing for no reason. He can definitely fight. I’m not looking at that fight to say, ‘Oh, maybe he’s slipped a little bit.’
“To me, he’s a young Beterbiev, so that’s what we’re getting ready for,” said McGirt about Beterbiev recently struggling to beat his last opponent, Anthony Yarde, last January, a fight that Artur was losing in two of the judges’ scorecards at the time he scored an eighth round knockout to win.
Beterbiev took his time in his recent title defense against Yarde, slowly breaking him down until stopping him. Yarde’s hand speed & punching power gave Beterbiev problems through the first six rounds.
However, by the seventh, Yarde was worn out, and you could tell he was ready to be finished off by Beterbiev. With the way the judges were scoring the fight, it’s a good thing that Beterbiev did stop Yarde because he might have been on the receiving end of a robbery if he hadn’t knocked him out.
Two of the judges had Yarde up by the following scores:
“Since Artur made such a big splash in the UK against Yarde, we would not be opposed to him returning one day in the future,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum to Sky Sports about Artur Beterbiev returning to the UK at some point.
“He’s so heavy-handed that he doesn’t need to show it or display it that often,” said Dan Azeez about Beterbiev. “Even when I’m in there with him, he says, ‘One day, I’ll be a good boxer, Dan.’”