May 30, 2024

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The light heavyweight unification bout between WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO champ Joe Smith Jr. promised fireworks with both men possessing significant power. Rather than a dramatic slugfest, Beterbiev obliterated Smith, scoring three knockdowns before the fight was stopped in just the second round as Beterbiev became a three-belt champion.

Beterbiev started faster than is his normal style, landing big overhand rights in the first round while Smith tried to fire back with power shots of his own. Beterbiev’s right hand landed hard one final time in the opening frame, bouncing off Smith’s head and causing Smith’s knee to hit the canvas for the first knockdown of the fight.

Smith had one minute in his corner between rounds to recover but was unable to do so as Beterbiev landed another right to score the second knockdown of the fight.

It didn’t get better from there for Smith, with Beterbiev keeping his foot on the gas and trapping Smith against the ropes. As Beterbiev landed punch after punch, Smith crumbled into the ropes, nearly spilling to the floor for a third knockdown.

The finish came at the 2:19 mark of Round 2 as a flurry of Beterbiev hooks and uppercuts sent Smith stumbling and forced the referee to call the fight. There was no doubt the stoppage was the correct call as Smith was barely able to stand even as he clutched the ropes.

Beterbiev is now 18-0 as a professional and has stopped every opponent in his career. That impressive record includes his seven knockouts in world championship bouts.

Now holding three of the four recognized world titles at 175 pounds, Beterbiev naturally expressed an interest in the biggest fight in the division, an undisputed championship bout with Dmitry Bivol, who is coming off a big upset win over Canelo Alvarez in May.

“I have had two unification fights,” Beterbiev said. “Unification fights are more interesting. I prefer a unified fight. I want to be undisputed.”

The second-round knockout was Beterbiev’s fastest since taking just 2:44 to stop Isidro Ranoni Prieto in December 2016, one fight before becoming world champion.

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