By Barry Holbrook: Promoter Frank Warren has booked October 22nd as the date for WBO 175-lb mandatory Anthony Yarde to challenge the winner of the June 18th unification fight between light heavyweight champions Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr.
Warren says the Beterbiev-Smith winner must face Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) next on October 22nd or they’ll have to vacate the WBO if they choose to go in another direction towards facing WBA 175-lb champion Dmitry Bivol.
With Beterbiev & Smith’s promoter Bob Arum already saying he’s not interested in matching them against Bivol, it won’t be an issue anyway. Neither fighter will face Bivol next.
IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) and WBO champ Smith Jr (28-3, 22 KOs) are fighting next month on June 18th on ESPN+ at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“22nd of October. We’re right down the road with this with Top Rank,” said Frank Warren to iFL TV. “The winner of that fight [Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr], we believe we can put that fight on here.
“I spoke to Bob Arum about it only, and we want to do that fight. We booked a date and talked about it. The date is the 22nd of October, and we want to get that fight [Yarde against Beterbiev – Smith Jr. winner].
“The winner has to fight Anthony Yarde. That is what has to happen. WBO have ordered that. We’re good to go absolutely. Anthony and Tunde, his manager & trainer, they’ll be at ringside [for Beterbiev vs. Smith], they’re going out there.
“It won’t supersede it because that’s what has to happen. They’ll have to vacate the [WBO] title, and I don’t think they’ll do that. I don’t think they’ll be looking to fight Bivol,” said Warren when asked what would happen if the Beterbiev vs. Smith winner elects to fight WBA 175-lb champion Dmitry Bivol next for the undisputed light heavyweight championship rather than face WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde on October 22nd.
“That’s what we’ve agreed to do. That’s what the situation is. Anthony Yarde is in the #1 spot as the mandatory challenger, and why on earth am I going to stop him from fighting potentially the winner of a unification fight [between Beterbiev & Smith] for three titles? Do you know what that’s worth for him? It’s a no-brainer. So that’s why.
“The best thing is that it [Joshua Buatsi vs. Craig Richards] was an eliminator for the WBA title. Let Bivol fight Buatsi. Let those two get it on. If our man [Yarde] gets it on in October the 22nd with the winner of that fight [Beterbiev vs. Smith], and they [Bivol vs. Buatsi] both come through, what a fantastic fight.
“It depends on how they lose,” said Warren when asked if Yarde vs. Buatsi can happen if one or both lose their next fights. “If it’s a close fight, who knows? It’s not the end of the world if somebody gets beat. We’ve seen fighters get beat and come back again,” said Warren.