Smith had his moments and took on his corner’s advice to target the body of Beterbiev, but the champion remained unfazed, built momentum across six rounds, and turned up the pressure in round seven.
In that frame, the Russian overwhelmed Smith against the ropes, producing an onslaught that saw him hurt the Briton with numerous right hands. Eventually Smith lolloped to the canvas after a left, and though he was able to beat the referee’s count, he was soon put down again as Beterbiev maintained his barrage.
Once more, Smith rose to his feet, but the Liverpudlian’s trainer Buddy McGirt entered the ring to call an end to the contest, sparing his fighter further punishment.
Beterbiev sunk to his knees in emotion, as he celebrated retaining the WBC, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles. The result also improved the 38-year-old’s record to 20-0 with 20 knockouts, and it sets up an intriguing bout with WBA champion Bivol.
Eddie Hearn, who promotes Bivol, said this week that a fight between the unbeaten Russians has been signed and will take place in Saudi Arabia this year. However, Beterbiev’s promoter Bob Arum said on Saturday that the fight is not yet finalised, and that it cannot take place before July – three months after the end of Ramadan.
“My coach, our team is working hard with me,” Beterbiev said after beating Smith. “We have a couple strategies, you need to be prepared for several strategies. [Smith] gave me a good fight, he stayed strong. Thank you to him. But today, luck is on my side.”
When asked about Bivol, 32, Beterbiev added: “Yes, of course [I want Bivol next]. I need another, fourth belt.”
Before Saturday’s fight in Quebec City, Smith had never been stopped or knocked down. The 33-year-old, a former super-middleweight champion, was outpointed by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2020, in what was his sole loss as a pro until his bout with Beterbiev.
It was revealed this week that Beterbiev returned an ‘atypical’ drug-test result in December, but that he later tested negative and was cleared to fight Smith.
Beterbiev and Smith were initially due to box each other in August 2023, but the Russian sustained a jaw infection that led to the postponement of the fight. As such, Saturday’s main event was Beterbiev’s first fight in 12 months and Smith’s first since August 2022.