By Jim Calfa: WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman says IBF/WBC/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev must defend against his WBC mandatory challenger Callum Smith, and he can’t face WBA champ Dmitry Bivol as he would like to do.
Bivol is ineligible to fight Beterbiev because the Boxing Council prohibits Russian fighters from fighting for their titles. Although Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) is Russian, he lives and fights out of Montreal, Canada.
This means Beterbiev will need to face Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) next unless Bivol asks for an exception or if Artur vacates the WBC title. Since Beterbiev & Bivol are interested in fighting for the undisputed championship at 175, vacating the WBC belt is not an option.
The WBC’s decision to block Bivol from fighting Beterbiev will surely make Callum’s promoter Eddie Hearn happy because that’s the fight he wants next. As Callum’s promoter, Hearn wants him to challenge the Top Rank-promoted Beterbiev for his WBC belt.
If the former WBA super middleweight champion Callum defeats Beterbiev, it’s even better for Hearn because it would set up another in-house fight. Callum would then face Bivol for the undisputed.
In the meantime, Hearn, who promotes Bivil as well, plans on keeping him in-house with his company, matching him against his fighter Joshua Buatsi in April, then Canelo Alvarez in September. Hearn also promotes Canelo so that Bivol-Canelo will be another in-house fight for him.
Hearn could easily submit a petition to the WBC to allow Bivol to fight Beterbiev for their belt, but he’s not going to do that because he’s got other plans in mind. As I said, Hearn wants Bivol to stable fighters Buatsi in April and Canelo in September.
“At this moment, I insist, there has not been a petition [from Dmitry Bivol]. For us, the mandatory fight is next,” said WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman to Izquierdazo about Artur Beterbiev needing to defend against his WBC mandatory Callum Smith next.
“Bivol has not approached WBC [to ask for an exemption]. At our last Convention, we were very clear about our position in relation to fighters from Russia and Belarus. And that is the case with Bivol”.
“Yes, definitely (he is a pound-for-pound),” Sulaiman said about Beterbiev. “Callum Smith is a marvelous fighter. His only loss was a unanimous decision with Canelo. So, the mandatory fight between Beterbiev and Smith will be very important.”