Confident Callum Smith hoping to tear up the Artur Beterbiev-Dimitrii Bivol script

On the eve of flying out to Quebec on his mission to become a two-weight world champion, Callum Smith says he hopes one of 2024’s Dream Fights winds up in the trash.

Smith is seen as the final hurdle before a mouth-watering unification fight between light-heavyweight champions Artur Beterbiev and Dimitrii Bivol takes place later this year.

Smith faces three-belt champion Beterbiev in Quebec next week, with Bivol reported to have signed a contract to face Beterbiev next.

Smith is a former unified 168lbs champion who has won twice at 175lbs. The Liverpool star is 29-1 (21 KOs), although he has not boxed since August 2022.  

But he is confident ahead of his significant task. Beterbiev is 38, and might be distracted by the proposition of Bivol. With that in mind, Smith needs only to point at recent history, with Deontay Wilder slipping up against Joseph Parker ahead of an Anthony Joshua contest, to know he can be more than a banana skin.

Does Smith think it’s disrespectful that so many are looking forward to the unification fight? 

“Yeah and no,” Smith said. “Not really because I think, when I was a world champion, the first thing I wanted to do was unify the other championships, that’s what you want to do. You don’t really want to bother with voluntaries or mandatories, you want to see who’s the best, and they’re the fights that excite you; champion v champion. They’re the ones I used to stay up and watch as a kid, so I get him wanting to become undisputed and I get Bivol wanting to become undisputed, they are the only two champions in the weight division, so I understand the talk of it. It’s probably bad timing that he [Beterbiev]’s only a couple of weeks out from fighting myself, as you’ve seen with the Wilder and Joshua situation, you can’t really bank on anything in this sport, especially in the higher weight divisions and at the highest level, so I hope I ruin all the plans. I hope they are planning on doing that fight in the spring and I hope I tear the script up.”

It is not a distraction for Smith, at least, who has his eyes fixed on the 19-0 Russian who has stopped every man he has faced in the professionals, including Smith’s old stablemate Callum Johnson. Smith was then being trained by Joe Gallagher, but is now with Buddy McGirt, and he’s ready to cause a shock. 

“I’m not mad at people for wanting to see that fight because it’s a fight I’d like to see but I do think it’s disrespectful when my fight isn’t just pencilled in, it’s happening a week or two out from when all the stuff started and it came out that Bivol had signed for it,” Smith added. “But it is what it is. I’ve just got to focus on me and my job, hopefully ruin all the plans and maybe we can do me and Bivol for undisputed.”

Beterbiev, of course, has a fierce reputation. But Smith has experience on the big stage having boxed Canelo Alvarez in 2022 in Texas. Beterbiev poses a very different threat, but it is one Smith has had months to prepare for, given the bout was originally due to take place in August before Beterbiev was forced to postpone with an injury. 

“It’s more just the magnitude of the fight,” Smith added, talking about the occasion he is flying out to face tomorrow. “It’s a world title fight and I’ve been here before, obviously I had my first one with [George] Groves and you just know what’s at stake, that’s what I’ve always been in boxing for, to fight for world titles, not in [to fight] individual people. Like if Beterbiev wasn’t champion, he wouldn’t be someone I’d be wanting to face. He’s the man with the belts and I’ve always been motivated by achievements and it’s just a big fight for me. I’m in boxing to win world titles and that’s the motivation for me. Most of your fights are, ‘Get through this and move onto this’, [but] this is the end goal to become a world champion again. I’m feeling good, I’ve had a good camp, training is going well but he’s not someone I’ve always watched and wondered, ‘How would he lose?’ When you watch [Terence] Crawford against [Errol] Spence, you think, ‘Well, who’s going to beat him and how would you beat him?’ Whereas, when I watch Beterbiev I see he can be hit, he can be hurt, so I know ways I can expose openings. It’s a fight I’ve always been quietly confident in winning.”