Smith concedes Beterbiev might be a monster but says he’s not an invincible one

“They say he’s this invincible monster, he may be a monster but he’s not invincible,” said Callum Smith.

Liverpool’s former world super-middleweight champion takes on ferocious Russian puncher Artur Beterbiev in Quebec on Saturday, well aware of the WBC, WBO and IBF beltholder’s reputation.

Beterbiev has knocked out all 19 victims. He is being teed up for a huge unification fight with Dimitrii Bivol later this year, but Smith has other ideas. Smith was sparring with Callum Johnson as a stablemate before Johnson was stopped in the fourth round of a fire fight with Beterbiev back in 2018. 

Johnson had his own success, including dropping Beterbiev in the second round.

“He [Beterbiev] can be hurt, he’s been put down previously by [Jeff] Page as well, so he can be put over, he’s not the hardest to hit, so I don’t think we should read too much into this invincible hype that he’s got,” Smith added. “He can be hit, he can be hurt, so I feel confident in my own power and my own ability to go in there and find the openings.”

While Beterbiev has been down in the first and second rounds, Smith’s two most recent wins – at light-heavyweight – have come in rounds two and four, so Callum can start fast.

He stayed up to watch Beterbiev-Johnson on TV, because it was within a week of his own biggest win, against George Groves.

Smith is confident in his own ability, despite being aware of Beterbiev’s credentials.

The champion is, however, 38. He has also been inactive for a year and this fight had to be postponed from August because Beterbiev had a jaw infection. But Smith is not buying into the possibility of fighting a faded force, who also had to come through an almighty struggle with Anthony Yarde in one of the best fights of 2023.

“Possibly [time is catching up with Beterbiev], but I can’t go in and bank on it, that he’s turned into an old man overnight,” Smith reasoned. “He looked good beating Anthony Yarde. Look, he isn’t getting any younger and at some point someone will beat him, I don’t think he will retire undefeated. He’s not going to go on forever. Father Time catches up with every fighter in the sport and someone will beat him and I believe it will be me. Timing is a big thing in boxing, and hopefully the time is right for this one. Whether he’s 33 or 38, I’ve got to go in there and expect the best version of him and I believe I will beat him. He’s 38, he’s not getting any younger and he’s been out of the ring for a year. That kind of evens it up a bit. I think my inactivity has been 17 months, so I think we’re both classed as inactive going into this fight rather than it just being me, so the delay’s probably made it a little bit more of a level playing field.”

Smith, like his fighting brothers Paul, Stephen and Liam, is a student of the sport. He is familiar with Beterbiev’s career, as a decorated amateur and as a pound-for-pound pro.

“He's very good,” the challenger admitted. “His achievements speak for themselves. He’s undefeated, he’s a three-belt world champion and knocked everyone out. I think if it was a Brit who had that record and those credentials, a lot more would probably be getting made of it. I think his power obviously speaks for itself in terms of his record but his boxing ability probably gets a little bit unnoticed as well. He’s a World amateur champion, he’s got better feet than people give him credit for and there’s obviously a lot of big punchers in boxing but you’ve got to be able to find the gaps and move your opponent to where you want him to be and he’s good at that as well. I have to rate him as a fighter. I’m not saying he’s overrated, I just see his style against my style and see things I can capitalise on and the mistakes he makes, but he’s a very good fighter. I’m not going to deny that and say he’s overrated because he’s not. He’s a very good fighter.”

Smith has struggled with inactivity in recent years, waiting for his shot. Paul and Stephen have retired, and only Callum and Liam are still boxing. Paul and Liam are more extroverted, while Callum and Stephen – now a promising coach – are quieter.

When Callum walks to face Beterbiev on Saturday night, it’s a ringwalk he has taken 30 times (29 wins, one loss – to Canelo Alvarez) before, to face Canelo, to face Groves, during several big, make-or-break nights. Will he be thriving in the spotlight?

“Not so much,” smiled the natural introvert, about being the star and the centre of attention. “I think my brother Liam probably enjoys it more. I just love the winning side of it, going in there and proving you’re the better fighter and outsmarting someone and proving who’s going to come out best. I’ve always enjoyed that side of it rather than just going in there and having a physical fight. It’s not who I am as a person. I just look to the sport, the technical side of it and I believe I’m the better fighter and I believe I can prove that. When I get in the ring, I kind of become a bit more spiteful. Outside the ring, I’m quite laidback, quiet and shy but get in the ring and I can flick a switch but I just enjoy winning. I’ve always wanted to be the best and I read the Boxing News as a little boy and I’d see all my favourite fighters with the belts on the front cover and it’s always what I wanted to be. I managed to achieve it at 168 and now I feel like I can raise the bar and do it at two weight divisions.”