(Quebec) Artur Beterbiev will turn 39 in a week. But the three-time world boxing champion proved Saturday evening at the Videotron Center that he still has everything he needs to accomplish his dream: unifying the titles at 175 pounds.
Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) won a KO victory. technical in the seventh round. He wore down his opponent, Callum Smith (29-2, 21 KOs) to the point of forcing a retirement.
The Briton never managed to establish his rhythm, although he was able to land his jab on a few occasions. Beterbiev did not give up, won every round. At the end of the seven attacks, Beterbiev had hit with 182 shots compared to only 59 for Smith.
In the final round, he pounced on his prey, overwhelmed by his combinations. Smith went to the mat twice in the seventh, a first in his career. He barely defended himself anymore. Trainer Buddy McGirt wisely threw in the towel, despite the protests of his boxer, probably the only one in the amphitheater who still believed in his chances.
“I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a good boxer. But I’m not there yet,” Beterbiev said after the fight. “I’m not satisfied yet. »
Beterbiev delivered this performance in front of 10,031 spectators. Saturday’s gala broke the attendance record for boxing at the Videotron Center. Previous records were 8,624 spectators for Lucian Bute vs. James DeGale in November 2015, and 7,800 in February 2017 for Lucian Bute vs. Eleider Álvarez.
“I’m proud to be Quebecois,” Beterbiev said in French. “I have lived in Quebec for ten years. I’m from here now. And I always like fighting in Montreal and Quebec. The stadium that takes for me feels good. It was like fighting at home. »
The champion (IBF, WBC, WBO) now wants to unify the light heavyweight division once and for all. He is aiming for a fight against the holder of the missing belt, that of the WBA, the Russian Dmitri Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs).
“One day Artur told me I don’t believe in these champions in three federations. You are the champion or you are not. We won’t be satisfied until we have all four belts,” said his coach, Marc Ramsay.
This clash awaited for years, with the four belts at stake, must take place in Saudi Arabia this year. The Kingdom has recently been pouring dollars into combat sports. Promoters are finding it hard to resist.
So Beterbiev is still hungry. But he assures that he is not chasing honors to receive applause. “I don’t think about that. People know me from boxing gyms, that’s enough for me,” he says.
For the promoter who organized the evening, Beterbiev’s win represents a victory for Quebec boxing. “Artur is with Top Rank today, but he’s a legend to me already. If my boxers can learn from him, it would be a dream,” responded the president of Eye Of the Tiger Management (EOTTM), Camille Estephan.
Callum Smith’s clan did not appear before the media to answer questions after the gala. His promoter, Eddie Hearn, who had been very voluble earlier this week when commenting on Beterbiev’s atypical doping control, was absent from the press conference room.