Callum Smith is probably feeling pretty chuffed, as far as injured fighters go.
The former super middleweight titlist from Liverpool reportedly suffered an injury that forced him to bow out of a 175-pound fight with Pawel Stepien scheduled for March 11.
But now Smith could be in line for a far more appealing—and lucrative—fight later this year: a showdown with WBC, IBF, WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.
Eddie Hearn, Smith’s promoter, is angling to get Smith his WBC mandatory shot at the Russian mauler, who is coming off a spirited eighth-round stoppage of his WBO mandatory, London’s Anthony Yarde, in January.
Hearn informed an outlet that he had been notified by the WBC that Beterbiev-Smith will be formally ordered, and that he sees the fight ideally taking place in Smith’s backyard of Liverpool. Beterbiev, who lives and trains in Montreal, is backed by Top Rank, which has somewhat icy relations with Hearn’s Matchroom. The fight would have to happen after the Ramadan holiday period, which begins March 22 and ends April 1, because Beterbiev is Muslim.
“It’s going to be ordered,” Hearn said of Beterbiev-Smith in an interview with iFL TV. “The WBC have already written to all parties and that they’ll respect Ramadan. But after that negotiations will begin and hopefully they’ll be straightforward.
“He’s (Beterbiev) been to England before. There’s obviously a model in place that has worked for Top Rank and Beterbiev. We’re desperate to do the fight at the M&S [Bank Arena Liverpool]. It’s such a great fight for that arena. …I just feel like it’s a special arena and for a fight like that it would be fantastic to do it in Liverpool.”
If a Beterbeiv-Smith gets underway, it will mean fans will not get to see an undisputed light heavyweight title fight between Beterbiev and WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol this summer. Hearn, who promotes Bivol, had suggested last month that he was in talks with Top Rank to stage Beterbiev-Bivol in the Middle East in the summer, but that scenario is unlikely if Beterbiev and Smith decide to meet in the ring.
When asked to clarify the situation, a representative for Beterbiev declined comment.
A Top Rank official previously noted that a Beterbiev-Smith fight could possibly take place in Montreal.
The Middle East apparently is another possibility.
Asked if Abu Dhabi was on the table as a site for Beterbiev-Smith, Hearn admitted that was the case, especially considering that financial demands may force them to move the fight there. Hearn promoted the light heavyweight championship between Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez in Abu Dhabi last November.
“Probably, yeah,” Hearn said. “But at the end of the day, Callum is on the smaller end of that piece as the challenger. He’s still a massive name in that fight. If you ask him where he would prefer to do it, the answer would be Liverpool, but Beterbiev might want more money and maybe the economics can only work in the Middle East. We’ll be doing everything we can to bring the fight to Liverpool.
“The good news is that that process has begun for the WBC and he has a chance to become a two-division champion.”