Artur Beterbiev was still perfect as he approached his 39th birthday.
The 175-pound titleholder hadn’t fought in a year when he stepped through the ropes to face Callum Smith on Jan. 13 in Quebec City, Canada, but neither his advanced age nor the layoff was evident in his performance.
Beterbiev pummeled his accomplished opponent, dropped him twice and finally stopped him the seventh round, making Smith his 20th knockout victim in as many fights.
The winner was modest afterward, saying, “It’s because of luck. It’s my coach (Marc Ramsay). My team works hard with me, too. Maybe that’s why, too. But I think it’s because of luck.”
Luck had nothing to do with it. He demonstrated in emphatic fashion that he remains one of the best fighters in the world — he’s No. 12 on Boxing Junkie’s pound for pound list — and arguably the top 175-pounder of his generation.
Thus, he earned Boxing Junkie Fighter of the Month honors for January.
Beterbiev’s dominating victory wasn’t the result of sheer aggression. The three-belt champion used his boxing skills and experience to patiently, methodically break down his opponent until the challenger could no longer fight back.
The result was both brutal and thorough, which underscored Beterbiev’s reputation as a fearsome beast.
Indeed, he has never looked better as he approaches the biggest matchup of his decade-long career, a showdown with fellow titleholder Dmitry Bivol for the undisputed light heavyweight championship in late spring or summer.
We’ll see whether Beterbiev is up to the challenge of facing Bivol if they reach a deal. Bivol, the conqueror of superstar Canelo Alvarez, is more skillful than Smith.
However, Beterbiev, who turned 39 on Jan. 21, clearly is threat to anyone at or near his weight. That couldn’t have been more obvious on Jan. 13.
“They talk about his strength and punching power,” said Buddy McGirt, Smith’s trainer, “but he’s a very smart fighter. He’s gonna be tough to beat.”