Joe Smith Prioritizes Beterbiev Or Bivol Unification Over Shot At Canelo: ‘It’s For My Legacy’

Joe Smith Prioritizes Beterbiev Or Bivol Unification Over Shot At Canelo: ‘It’s For My Legacy’

Joe Smith Jr. isn’t as impressed as some of his peers may be by the potential windfall of a Canelo Alvarez bout.

The former day laborer and current WBO light heavyweight beltholder from Long Island, New York was recently asked whom he wants to fight the most and his answer, not surprisingly, was in line with his reputation as a no-nonsense competitor.

“At this point, everybody would choose the Canelo fight, just because there’s money to be made there,” Smith told Brian Custer on The Last Stand Podcast. “But really, for my legacy, I want to be known as a great fighter, so I would like to fight [WBC/IBF titleholder Artur] Beterbiev and [WBA titleholder Dmitry] Bivol.”

Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) is projected to defend his title against Callum Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) on Jan. 15 at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. Smith lost to Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) in their encounter in 2019 by wide decision. Since then Smith has reeled off three straight wins, including his last fight, a title-winning effort over Maxim Vlasov (46-4, 26 KOs).

Co-promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc. recently suggested that Alvarez could be interested in facing either Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) or Smith, both of whom belong to the Top Rank banner.

“With this sport you never know,” Smith said.” If they’re willing to come to me and fight, I’ll take any one of them. Those are the fights I want. I know I gotta get past Johnson and make a statement with him. That’s gonna open up the doors for these big fights to happen.”  

ESPN reported last summer that Smith was projected to fight 175-pound newcomer Daniel Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs), a former middleweight titleholder, in the early part of 2022. Asked about that matchup, Smith expressed little interest, stating it would be akin to taking a step “backward.”

“It’s not really a fight that I want,” Smith said of the Jacobs fight. “The fights I want: I want to unify. I want Beterbiev and Bivol.”

For all his fixation on unifying the division, Smith, of course, would welcome a fight with Alvarez, if a serious deal ever materializes.

“Really, [Beterbiev and Bivol] are the only fights I want to take,” Smith said. “It’s those two, unless Canelo comes up, and he wants to fight, I’ll take that fight. But I want to unify. I don’t want to go backwards. I’m trying to get all the belts.”

Smith expressed interest in facing Britain’s Anthony Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs), but he made it clear unification remains his top priority.

“I’ve got the world championship,” Smith said. “It’s around my waist and everybody wants it. I’m interested in the [Yarde] fight, but what I really want is to unify and become the one champion.”

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