Artur Beterbiev crushes Joe Smith Jr to win WBO light-heavyweight title

Beterbiev stopped the American in the second round in New York City

<p>Artur Beterbiev (right) added the WBO belt to his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles</p>

Artur Beterbiev (right) added the WBO belt to his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles

Artur Beterbiev secured another light-heavyweight title on Saturday night, stopping Joe Smith Jr in the second round to take the American’s WBO belt.

Beterbiev entered Madison Square Garden Theater as WBC and IBF champion, and the Russian left New York City with Smith Jr’s title over his shoulder after crushing the 32-year-old.

The main-event contest began with Smith Jr pressing forward, while Beterbiev looked to counter with heavy overhand rights. Both men landed clean jabs and some powerful shots in the first round, with Beterbiev finding the most impactful punch of the frame: a right hand that seemed to stagger Smith Jr and insitigated a phase of brawling.

It was in that period that Smith Jr went down as Beterbiev put together a series of stiff strikes, though the referee ruled that the American had merely slipped.

But as Smith Jr attempted to reassert himself by backing up the Russian, Beterbiev dropped his opponent to a knee with a clubbing right overhand. There was no disputing this knockdown – the first suffered by Smith Jr in his professional career – though the American answered the count in time for the fight to resume with one second left in the opening round.

Smith Jr began the second round by attempting to stay disciplined and fight behind his jab, but Beterbiev favoured power shots and began to land left hooks at will. Yet it was a malicious right hook that earned the Russian his second official knockdown of the contest, with Smith Jr stumbling into the ropes on this occasion.

Beterbiev could now face Dmitry Bivol to crown an undisputed champion

Smith Jr fought on, soon to be caught with a clean uppercut at the start of a combination that put him down once more. The referee gave the WBO champion one last chance, but a perfect right uppercut and spiteful hook sent a punch-drunk Smith Jr stumbling across the ring and the bout was waved off.

The result improved Beterbiev’s remarkable record to 18-0 with 18 knockouts and opens the door for a clash between the 37-year-old and compatriot Dmitry Bivol, who holds the WBA light-heavyweight title.

Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) retained the belt in May by handing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the second loss of his professional career, outpointing the Mexican in Las Vegas.

While Canelo and Bivol are expected to rematch in the future, Alvarez is set for a September trilogy bout against old rival Gennady Golovkin.

As such, Beterbiev and Bivol could square off to crown an undisputed light-heavyweight champion before the year is up.

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