Military deception is an attempt by a military unit to gain an advantage during warfare by misleading adversary decision makers into taking actions detrimental to the adversary.
If you ask anyone in boxing, especially those in New York City for Saturday’s light-heavyweight unification between power-punchers Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr., every discussion is permeated with comments about an upcoming Fight of the Year and an all-out slugfest for the ages. It’s not without valid reasons. Beterbiev boasts a perfect KO percentage in all his 17 wins. Smith Jr. is at nearly 80% with 22 stoppages in his 28 wins. But in BeatBoxingMayhem’s recent exclusive interview with Beterbiev, the formidable puncher revealed a few subtle hints that may tip off a more cerebral warfare strategy for this Saturday.
For all the attention Beterbiev receives for his KO streak and Spartan training routines, the Russian is a simple, soft-spoken man prone to self-deprecating humor and even shyness in one on one interviews. You won’t get a boastful word out of him, even when this writer proposed he’s finally reached the level of a complete fighter after passing advertisy tests from Oleksandr Gvozdyk (behind on two cards) and Marcus Brown (severe, bleeding forehead cut).
“I have many things [left] to learn,” said Beterbiev. “I’m very far from being a good boxer. I hope to one day become a good boxer.”
There was only one area where Beterbiev wasn’t candid — who exactly where his sparring partners for this camp. Anticipating that revealing the sparring partners could tip off the strategy, Beterbiev would only say the sparring came from fighters flown in across the world. Still, a previous comment in our interview and from his trainer Marc Ramsay to Saturday Night Boxing gives us enough clues to show Beterbiev might have pulled off one of the shrewdest boxing warfare deceptions of the year.
“I always like to change things,” Beterbiev told BeatsBoxingMayhem when asked how he’s been retaining power for his recent late knockouts. “When you stay on one line or one position, someone can get you. But when you change it, it’s tough to get you.”
“He’s very good at putting pressure,” Ramsay told SaturdayNightBoxing.com. “But what he’s doing, he’s doing every fight. I don’t want to say he’s a one-way fighter, but as I said, Joe Smith is Joe Smith. It’s very classic. It’s not something new. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of balls. Good power…He’s very effective at what he does. He doesn’t look like he has a bad night. Joe Smith is going to bring it to you. And I respect that a lot, but Artur Beterbiev to me is another level of boxer.”
It’s not a secret that Smith Jr.’s best path to victory is a knockout, preferably early. Beterbiev engaging in a straight ahead brawl gives Smith Jr. his best chance to pull off the upset. It’s also the most rudimentary plan available, considering Beterbiev extensive amateur world champion background.
Instead, look for Beterbiev to take a tactical, guerilla warfare approach, alternating from luring Smith Jr. into traps and applying pressurce when the Long Island slugger is seeking to rest. As Beterbiev stated, a “linear fight” approach is how you get caught. A good template for how this fight may look is Gennady Golovkin’s dominant 2015 stoppage over David Lemieux. GGG wore down his foe with a brisk punch output puncuated by a steady diet of hard jabs before going in for the late kill.
Despite the perception of being a slow starter, Beterbiev’s average of 63 punches per round is currently good for #33 among all active fighters tracked by CompuBox. Expect patient and controlled engagement from Beterbiev, perhaps frustrating a Smith Jr. who’s on record as stating he doesn’t expect either of them to be hard to find with big shots. And continuing what Beterbiev’s done since 2019, expect him to win by stoppage somewhere between rounds 9-12.