Artur Beterbiev has been foiled in his bid to face Dmitry Bivol for the undisputed light heavyweight title this summer.
The one hundred percent knockout puncher, who stopped Anthony Yarde in a barnstorming bout last weekend, was eyeing all four belts next.
However, World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman closed the door to an immediate battle. Mandatory Callum Smith will be his opportunity instead.
Sulaiman has banned Russian and Belarusian fighters from competing for any of their titles due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
Despite Beterbiev being Russian, the three-belt champion fights out of Canada and holds a Canadian passport. Therefore, only Bivol stands as ineligible.
Unless Bivol addresses the WBC with an exemption request and works out a deal with British contender Smith, Beterbiev will have no other option but to meet another UK fighter.
Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol
Speaking on the matter, Sulaiman outlined the WBC’s stance.
“Bivol has not approached WBC [to request an exemption],” Mauricio Sulaiman told reporters and IZQUIERDAZO. “At our last Convention, we were very clear about our position about fighters from Russia and Belarus. And that is the case with Bivol.”
Unless Bivol makes his position clear – that he wants to face Bivol next = the WBC has no other option but to rule for Beterbiev vs Smith.
“At this moment, I insist, there has not been a petition [from Bivol’s side],” Sulaiman reissued. “For us, the mandatory fight is next [Beterbiev vs Smith).”
On Smith being eligible, Sulaiman concluded:
“Yes, definitely [Smith is a worthy challenge],” Sulaiman said. “Beterbiev, 19 wins, 19 KOs, three belts, very solid, very strong.
“It’s a hard fight, among the best right now in boxing. Callum Smith is a marvelous fighter.
“His only loss was a unanimous decision with Canelo. So, the mandatory fight between Beterbiev and Smith will be very important.”
Smith has kept a low profile since dropping a decision to Canelo at the Alamodome in San Antonio at the back end of 2020.
Only two victories followed in over two years as Smith enjoyed the fruits of his labor after cutting the most extensive check of his career.
Many of the fighters before Smith retired after losing to the Mexican superstar. So it’s a testament to the Liverpool man that he’s in contention at the higher weight so soon.
The sticking point for “Mundo” is that both Beterbiev and Bivol want the fight next. This means Smith may have to work out a deal to face the winner by the end of this year.
At present, that’s the only way the fight goes down in the coming months.