Turki Alalshikh praises Beterbiev's victory over Smith as momentum builds to undisputed Bivol clash

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment chairman Turki Alalshikh has praised Artur Beterbiev for his impressive seventh-round victory over mandatory challenger Callum Smith in Quebec City. 

Beterbiev (20-0, 20KOs) showed no signs of ring rust or ill effects of his jaw injury, which has seen the unified WBC, WBO, and IBF unified light-heavyweight champion sit on the sidelines for almost a year following his victory against Anthony Yarde in January 2023. 

But 38-year-old Beterbiev turned in arguably a career-best performance against former super-middleweight champion Smith. 

Beterbiev scored two knockdowns in the decisive seventh round; following the second knockdown, trainer Buddy McGirt withdrew Smith by stepping into the ring with a minute of the round remaining. 

Speculation in recent weeks has suggested that if Beterbiev defeated Smith, it would be all systems go towards a 175lbs the undisputed title fight with WBA champion Dmitri Bivol. 

Post-fight, Beterbiev welcomed the prospect of stepping through the ropes against Bivol, saying how important the final belt would be for his legacy.

“Yes, of course [of wanting to face Bivol next],” Beterbiev said. “I need a fourth belt. It would mean a lot to me.

“It’s the top. It would mean in this category I have done work.”

Promoter Bob Arum also welcomed the prospect of an undisputed clash between the two premier 175lbs fighters but said the contest would only take place when Beterbiev had completed the fasting period of Ramadan, which ends in April. However, Arum indicated the contest would take place in Riyadh during the summer months, three months after Ramadan had finished.

“Ramadan is coming,” Arum said. “Ramadan ends sometime in the middle of April, so about three months after the end of Ramadan, we’ll be ready to fight Bivol, probably in Riyadh.”

Turki Alalshikh, the man behind the proposed unification bout, posted on social media, praising Beterbiev for his victory, implying he [Alalshikh] could now sleep easily. According to promoter Eddie Hearn, Bivol, who last appeared on December 23 against Lyndon Arthur in Riyadh, has reportedly signed an agreement to face Beterbiev in 2024. 

“Impressive performance [by Beterbeiv]... congratulations brother, thanks to God I can now sleep happy,” Alalshikh wrote on social media.