Artur Beterbiev, Joe Smith Jr In Talks For Light Heavyweight Unification

Joe Smith Jr is getting close to a fight he wants.

Smith and Artur Beterbiev are nearing a deal for a light heavyweight title unification this summer in New York, ESPN reported Monday night. Beterbiev puts his WBC and IBF titles on the line while Smith risks his WBO strap.

“[Beterbiev] is what I want,” Smith said weeks ago after he scored a ninth-round knockout of late replacement Steven Geffrard.

“I’m going to get better and better. I believe the next time you see me, I’ll be ready for anybody.”

Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) is coming off a good performance over Geffrard, which marked his first title defense. This was the fourth win ever since decision defeats to Dmitry Bivol and Sullivan Barrera.

The New York native was originally set to face Umar Salamov in October, but Smith withdrew after he was hospitalized with COVID symptoms. He was then set up with Callum Johnson, but that was scrapped after Johnson tested positive for COVID.

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) recently extended his winning streak to 17 with a ninth-round knockout of Marcus Browne, marking his fifth title defense.

The Russian-Canadian boxer is recognized as the best active light heavyweight by The Ring, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and ESPN. Smithy is ESPN’s No. 4 ranked lightweight.

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