Liverpool’s Callum Smith took out Mathieu Bauderlique to win an eliminator for the WBC light-heavyweight title on the Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua bill.
At the King Abdullah Sports City Arena, Smith floored Bauderlique and then levelled the Frenchman with another explosive left hook at 1-53 of the fourth round in Jeddah. With that victory, he’s earned a shot at unified world champion Artur Beterbiev, who holds the WBO and IBF titles as well as the WBC belt.
Smith won his first world title at this same venue four years ago when he defeated George Groves to become the WBA super-middleweight champion and claim the World Boxing Super Series.
Since losing his world title to Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez, Smith has made changes, joining trainer Buddy McGirt and moving up to light-heavyweight.
Image: Smith attacked with ferocious left hooks. (Photo: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.)
But he is determined to become a two-weight world champion. He impressed last year with a chilling stoppage victory over Lenin Castillo and has earned another shot at a world title with this victory over Bauderlique in Saudi Arabia.
The Frenchman was a credible opponent, who was ranked second in the WBC rankings, had only lost once before in his professional career and won an Olympic bronze medal at Rio 2016. But Smith would not be denied.
Smith took the centre of the ring early on, but concentrated on containing Bauderlique’s southpaw jab.
The Frenchman was busy, wielding his back-hand left to close in on the taller Smith. The Liverpudlian began to judge the distance between them and launched a fine cross to shake Bauderlique and knock him back.
Smith took him to the ropes but Bauderlique swung back wildly, his hooks clattering into the head as he fought for breathing room.
Opening up with vicious hooks to the body, Smith was drawn into trading off with Bauderlique.
But in the fourth round he swept his left hook across, catching Bauderlique high on the head and dropping him.
Smith saw his opponent was badly shaken and pursued him with unrelenting aggression. He unleashed further combinations of punches, even as Bauderlique fired back. A short right to the head stunned the Frenchman, knocking him onto the ropes.
Smith’s timing was dangerous. He forced a finish with a tremendous left hook that knocked the Frenchman down heavily, laying him out on the bottom rope at 1-53 of the fourth round.
“Good performance,” Smith said afterwards. “It’s been a long time out the ring, good to get back in.
Image: Smith is focused on his goal – a second world title in his new division.
“I was surprised by how much he engaged with me early on. I thought he was going to move a lot and try to offset and then take me on later.
“Regardless of how it goes I’m confident in my ability and I knew I could get the win.”
The knockout blow was superb, even if Smith had been over-eager early on. “He caught me a few times,” he admitted, “Buddy weren’t too happy in the corner.
“I think he’s happy with the finish and we move on.
“It puts me in line for the world title next, so a good night all round.”
Smith remains on course for his goal, closing in on a shot at the WBC belt that unified champion Artur Beterbiev holds.
“I’m still in the game to become a two-weight world champion,” Smith declared. “I just want to keep winning and at some point I will become a world champion.”
Even against the fearsome Beterbiev, Smith wouldn’t hesitate to take the fight.
“If I’ve got the skills at one weight, I’ve got the skills at another. I was good enough to become number one at 168lbs. I’ve had two fights at 175lbs and they’ve both been highlight reel knockouts. So I certainly do think I’ve got the power at 175lbs as well and I believe I’m improving all the time,” he said.
“If I didn’t believe I could win, I wouldn’t be standing here. It’s a tough, tough way to make a living.
“Whoever the champion is, I don’t really care. I want that belt. Whoever’s got it.”
Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Sky Sports Box Office. Book the repeats now!
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