LI’s Joe Smith Jr. set for title unification bout with Artur Beterbiev at MSG

Joe Smith Jr. is the WBO light heavyweight champion. Next month, he’ll try to add another six letters — specifically WBC and IBF — to his world championship status.

Smith, from Mastic Beach, will box undefeated Russian Artur Beterbiev in a light heavyweight title unification bout on June 18 at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

“Beterbiev versus Smith is one of the very best fights that can be made in boxing, two huge punchers fighting at Madison Square Garden in what will be an electric atmosphere,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said in a news release. “Whoever comes out on top will be the true king of the light heavyweight division.”

Smith (28-3, 22 knockouts) won the vacant title by majority decision over Maxim Valsov in April 2021, then successfully defended it with a ninth-round stoppage of Steve Geffrard last January. 

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 knockouts) is boxing’s only world champion with a 100% knockout rate. He won the IBF title in November 2017 and has won another five title fights after that, most recently in December 2021 against Marcus Browne.

“Facing Beterbiev is huge,” Smith said in a news release. “It is going to be a fight that fans remember forever, with two of the biggest punches in boxing today facing off. This opportunity is a dream of mine to accomplish. Fighting with three titles on the line is one step closer to becoming undisputed.”

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