Sims favors ‘quality fighter’ Smith to shock Beterbiev

“Well, I think if there’s ever time to beat him [Artur Beterbiev], it’s now,” said trainer Tony Sims.

The Essex coach, presently in Los Angeles training John Ryder and Conor Benn ahead of their fights stateside later this month and early in February, coached Ryder to a narrow and controversial defeat to Callum Smith, the Liverpudlian who takes on Beterbiev this weekend in Quebec.

Beterbiev is 19-0 with 19 stoppages. Smith is a former super-middleweight champion who has seemingly taken his good power up with him.

“I think Callum Smith’s in with a great chance of beating him,” Sims added. “We saw Beterbiev against [Anthony] Yarde, and Beterbiev definitely wasn’t the force that we were all thinking that he was going to be, and Callum Smith’s a quality fighter – he’s a world level fighter, he can punch with both hands, he’s obviously big at the weight [light-heavyweight], so I think he’s got a great chance of winning – I actually favor him to win, to be honest.” 

There are some who think that timing is everything and that the lack of activity supports the younger man, Smith, and his credentials for victory. Sims is one of them.

“Yeah, I really do, yeah,” he added. “I think the age of Beterbiev now [38-years-old], and you see what Yarde was doing with him, I just think that Smith’s a real quality fighter, I think he’s got the tools and the skills to really do something and I think he'll get the better of him. And obviously the year out, when you’re at that age, the year out is worse than when you’re young, and you know that year out for Beterbiev… Look at [Deontay] Wilder, it really hits into them. By the time you get there, the trouble is that when you get to their age is you start getting [more] injuries, every training session is hard work because you’ve got a lot of injuries hanging around, where you’ve put your body through the mill for so long, fighting, and then you start breaking down with stuff. Obviously he [Beterbiev] broke down with bad injuries, you don’t know what other injuries that he’s carrying. As you say, he’s been out for a year, which wouldn’t have done him any good at all. So I think if there’s a time for Callum Smith to win it, it would be now.”

Beterbiev-Smith had been due to take place in August, but Beterbiev suffered a jaw infection which forced a long delay.

There are plenty of moving parts at 175lbs, with Beterbiev and fellow champion Dimitrii Bivol heading many boxing wishlists for fights fans want to see in 2024. For Sims, that fight might have gone slightly beyond its best before date.

“Last year, when Beterbiev fought Yarde, that would’ve been the ideal time [for Beterbiev-Bivol], and obviously, [Dmitrii] Bivol beat ‘Canelo’ [Saul Alvarez, via unanimous decision], it would have been the ideal time to see them two fight,” Sims said. “I think that would have been like a pick ‘em fight, where you would have said it’s a 50-50 fight. But I don’t know, I got a feeling the year out hasn’t done Beterbiev any good, and the injuries as well…” 

On February 3, there is a big all-London fight at light-heavyweight that could have far-reaching ramifications in the division as whole, when Joshua Buatsi and Dan Azeez meet in Wembley. It is the same night Sims has Benn fighting Peter Dobson in Las Vegas, but it is one Sims is excited for.

“That’s a great fight, that’s a 50-50 fight,” he said of Azeez-Buatsi. “You can’t really say who’s going to win that fight – really good fight.”