Artur Beterbiev could fight as a Canadian against Joe Smith Jr. on June 18
By Dan Ambrose: WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman says his organization is evaluating whether to allow Russian Artur Beterbiev to fight as a Canadian for his unification bout against WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. on June 18 in New York.
The World Boxing Council does not certify Russian fighters to fight for their WBC titles due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the case of IBF/WBC 175-pound champion Beterbiev, he hails from Russia but has lived and fought outside of Canada for 15 years.
Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) is set to face WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 KOs) in a three-belt unification bout June 18 on ESPN+ at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The winner of the Beterbiev vs. Smith fight could face Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in 2023 in a lucrative battle for the undisputed 175-pound championship.
First, Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) must defeat current WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on May 7. Like Beterbiev, Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) is also originally from Russia, but now lives in Indio, Calif.
“We will not sanction any fight in Russia, and no Russian citizen will fight for the titles of our organization,” WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told Reuters ahead of the WBC heavyweight.
“He [Beterbiev’ has been in Canada for 15 years, he lives in Canada, his children were born in Canada, he has a Canadian passport and Canadian residency and a boxing license from Canada,” continued Sulaiman.
“So the WBC board is evaluating that specific case as we speak. We believe in what the world is doing, but we also have to look at specific cases and make justice prevail.”
It would be a huge disappointment if the WBC chooses not to certify the Beterbiev-Smith Jr. fight due to Artur being born in Russia, but that likely won’t prevent the contest from still happening.
Beterbiev still holds the IBF 175-lb title, so a fight between him & WBO champion Joe Smith Jr would be a tw0-belt unification instead of a three.
Many boxing fans view the two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev as the #1 fighter in the 175-lb division, and he’s a guy that Canelo has an interest in fighting.
You can argue that Canelo has shown how much respect he has for Beterbiev by choosing to fight Sergey Kovalev in 2019 rather than him. Even back then, IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev was seen as the #1 guy at 175, but Canelo chose the 36-year-old Kovalev rather than him.
Moreover, Canelo could have picked Beterbiev for his next fight up to 175 but opted instead to fight Bivol. That move shows Canelo’s respect for Beterbiev, and it also reveals his careful manner in selecting his opponents.
WBO 175-lb champion Smith is a dangerous puncher with wins over Bernard Hopkins, Maxim Vlasov, Eleider Alvarez, Jesse Hart, and Andrzej Fonfara.