Three belts and light heavyweight supremacy will be at stake when WBC/IBF world champion Artur Beterbiev meets WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. in a highly anticipated unification showdown Saturday, June 18, at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Beterbiev, boxing’s only world champion with a 100 percent knockout rate, hopes to pick up another strap against “Cinderella Man” Smith, a Long Island native who grew up about 70 miles from Madison Square Garden.
In the 10-round featherweight co-feature, two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy “El Tren” Ramirez will battle the unbeaten Abraham “El Super” Nova. Beterbiev-Smith and Ramirez-Nova will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), a two-time Russian Olympian, has spent his nine-year pro career based in Montreal, Canada. He has been a world champion since knocking out Enrico Koelling for the IBF strap in November 2017. He’s won five title fights inside the distance since then, including an off-the-deck victory over Callum Johnson and a title unification classic versus Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019. Beterbiev went 2-0 in 2021, capping the year with December’s brutal ninth-round stoppage over longtime contender Marcus Browne.
“I look forward to the challenge ahead of me. Joe Smith Jr. is a worthy champion, but I am coming to Madison Square Garden to add another world title to my collection,” Beterbiev said. “This fight will get me one step closer to becoming undisputed champion.”
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) earned mainstream recognition with his 2016 knockout of living legend Bernard Hopkins and scored standout wins over Jesse Hart and Eleider Alvarez in 2020. In his second world title attempt, he outlasted Maxim Vlasov in a 2021 Fight of the Year Contender. Smith successfully defend his world title in January with a ninth-round stoppage over late replacement Steve Geffrard.
Smith said, “I am extremely excited and focused on this task I have ahead. Facing Beterbiev is huge. It is going to be a fight that fans remember forever, with two of the biggest punches in boxing today facing off. This opportunity is a dream of mine to accomplish. Fighting with three titles on the line is one step closer to becoming undisputed.”
Ramirez (9-1, 5 KOs) has been on a sterling run since a shocking loss in his August 2019 professional debut. An Olympic champion in 2012 and 2016, Ramirez is coming off one-sided victories over the unbeaten Orlando Gonzalez and Irish veteran Eric Donovan. Nova (21-0, 15 KOs), who spent much of his career at junior lightweight, has been flawless since moving up to the featherweight ranks. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Albany, New York, Nova knocked out William Encarnacion in eight rounds on the Smith-Geffrard undercard in January.
The undercard, which will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+, is scheduled to feature many of the sport’s rising superstars. In six-round bouts, Brooklyn-born featherweight puncher Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (3-0, 2 KOs) and Long Island welterweight Jahi Tucker (7-0, 4 KOs) hope to extend their unbeaten records. U.S. Olympian Troy Isley (5-0, 3 KOs), fresh off his knockout win on the Oscar Valdez-Shakur Stevenson undercard, returns in a six-round middleweight bout. Featherweight Kurt Walker (2-0, 1 KO) and junior middleweight Kieran Molloy (1-0, 1 KO), both of whom starred for the Irish national team as amateurs, will make their respective U.S. debuts.