Artur Beterbiev snags third light heavyweight title with second-round destruction of Joe Smith Jr.

Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr. was billed as a potential Fight of the Year and it turned out to be the Mismatch of the Year.

Beterbiev scored three knockdowns of Smith en route to a second-round TKO to unify three light heavyweight titles on Saturday before 4,537 at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater in New York.

The Russian dropped Smith, who held the WBO title, in the closing seconds of the opening round with a counter right hand.

Smith continued to come forward, but Beterbiev's power and timing proved to be too much for the 32-year-old Smith to handle. 24 seconds later, the 37-year-old Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) floored Smith with a left hook. Moments later, the Long Island, New York, native was clobbered by a right hand, a left uppercut, a right uppercut, and was sent stumbling across the ring from a right hand before referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight.

Compubox further exemplified the massacre. Beterbiev landed 48 of 102 punches (47 percent). Smith connected on just 11 of 67 punches (16 percent).

"I want to be [a] good boxer one day maybe, that's why today was a little bit better than the past, I hope," said Beterbiev. "Joe's a little bit open and more easy for me to get him. Two fighters both have good punch and both tried to get [there] first. This time I'm lucky; I get there first."

After suffering decision losses to Sullivan Barrera (sustained a broken jaw) and Dmitry Bivol, Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) bounced back with dominating performances against Jesse Hart (SD 10) and former world champion Eleider Alvarez (TKO 9) to put himself in position to fight for the vacant belt against Maxim Vlasov, who he defeated via 12-round majority decision in April 2021. He made his first defense on January 15, scoring a ninth-round knockout of replacement opponent Steve Geffrard in New York.

It was a remarkable turn of events for Smith, who went from club fighter to champion. But the cinderella story came to an abrupt end against Beterbiev, who continues to batter his opponents into oblivion. He destroyed Marcus Browne in December. And in his last unification fight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk in Oct. 2019, he stopped him inside 10 rounds.

Beterbiev is expected to defend his three belts against 30-year-old Englishman Anthony Yarde, with a target date of Oct. 29.

"He's a beast," Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) said. "He hits very hard. I'm a beast, too. That's why I think it's such an exciting matchup."

An undisputed light heavyweight title fight against Dmitry Bivol, who upset and dominated Canelo Alvarez in May, will have to wait.

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