Trainer Marc Ramsay is preparing for one of the biggest fights of his career on June 18th. His fighter, light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev, will face fellow titlist Joe Smith Jr. at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden. Three belts will be on the line. The matchup presents a battle of perhaps the two biggest punchers in the division. Unified titlist Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) has yet to go the distance in a professional fight. Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) will be making his second title defense and he'll be fighting just a few miles away from his Long Island home.
For the Montreal-based trainer Ramsay, Beterbiev-Smith is a fight that motivates him. He's trained multiple titleholders such as Jean Pascal and Eleider Alvarez, but he's never had an undisputed champion and Beterbiev's battle with Smith can get him one step closer to that illustrious goal.
|Photo courtesy of Marc Ramsay|
Ramsay is more than familiar with Smith, having studied him extensively over the last few years. Alvarez lost to Smith by KO in 2020. In that fight, Smith turned in the most well-rounded performance of his career and impressed with not just his power but his fundamental boxing skills. Not only has Ramsay faced Smith in the opposing corner, but he's had ample time to consider Smith against Beterbiev; the matchup has been on the table at numerous points over the last 18 months.
I spoke with Ramsay this week about the upcoming matchup, his scouting report on Smith, training camp, and his reflections on a couple of important bouts in Beterbiev's career.
Interview conducted by Adam Abramowitz:
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Marc, thank you for your time today. How would you assess Beterbiev's last performance against Marcus Browne?
Pretty good. The only thing is that we were planning to start the fight slow and be careful, especially defensively, because Marcus is very fast and a good boxer. We wanted to take our time to break him down. But the cut, that changed the whole thing. When that cut happened, we could not take our time anymore. That fight could have been stopped at any moment and we had to rush a little bit. But our planning was to put progressive pressure on him round by round; we just needed to work a little bit faster.
Were you impressed with Artur’s poise in handling the cut?
Yes, but he’s always very calm under pressure. However, when he came back to the corner, I could see that he was mad. Mad, but under control. Aggressive, but still he was listening. I explained to him that we have a job to do for the cut and you have a job to do in the ring. If everybody’s focused on their job, then everything is going to be fine. Just focus on the tactics that we prepared for that fight, and he followed them.
The fight with Joe Smith has been rumored for a long time. I know it had been discussed in the past. Why didn’t it happen previously?
I don’t know. They had talked to us a couple of times about the fight. But we never really went deep in negotiations with them. They would talk about it, and after that there was a mandatory fight with Marcus Browne and then Joe Smith fought Steve Geffrard. It was just a question of negotiations.
You’re very familiar with Joe Smith. You faced him before with Eleider Alvarez, who lost by knockout. In that fight, Smith showed a lot of boxing skills and some new wrinkles that he often hadn’t displayed before. What were your impressions of Smith in that fight?
People say a lot of stuff about Joe Smith, but the guy is a world champion and he’s a world champion for a reason. Like everybody knows, he’s very physically strong. Good punch. He’s got balls. He can box also. He’s a complete fighter and we respect him a lot. This is nothing personal, but our objective is to take all of the straps, and he has one of them.
Did he surprise you or Alvarez in that fight?
Not really. We already knew that Joe Smith comes to the fight with his "A" game. Alvarez didn’t have a great training camp at that time and I was already starting to talk with him about retirement. That’s not the best angle to start a training camp and go for a fight of that magnitude. No, Joe Smith was the Joe Smith that I know.
What is Joe Smith's best attribute in the ring?
He’s very good at putting pressure. 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.
The last time Beterbiev faced a huge slugger was, in my opinion, Callum Johnson and Artur was dropped early in that fight before he rallied. What happened in that fight and did he take Johnson’s power for granted?
No, It’s a question of professional boxing. At some point you’re going to get hit. He got caught by a good shot. He got off the floor. He came back to the corner and we explained to him: Don’t put yourself at the level of your opponent. You can outbox that guy. Just focus on good boxing. And he was able to come back in that fight. It was very simple.
Was Beterbiev ever hurt in that fight?
It was a good shot. He was hurt a little bit from the punch when he went down. You know, Arthur has very good conditioning, good legs, resistance, and everything. As I was saying, it’s professional boxing. This stuff can happen. But it’s how you react after that happens which is most important.
For this training camp did Beterbiev do his strength and conditioning work in Russia before coming to Canada or did he do his entire camp in Canada?
He always does a pre-camp in high altitude in Russia. He went there, he trained and he came back for an eight-week training camp with me.
Is there anybody that you’ve been using in camp as a sparring partner that has particularly impressed you?
We have about six guys. I won’t name them because that could tell you the direction I want to take the fight. We’ve had very good sparring. We have guys with top rankings in our camp, very good boxers. And I’m very happy. For the Marcus Browne fight, the restrictions to come to Canada were so tough and it was tough to get quality sparring partners from outside of the country...It’s been way easier for this training camp. And we have had much higher quality sparring.
Beterbiev is about to have the biggest fight of his career, headlining at Madison Square Garden. I know that it’s been a long road for him, with injuries and several periods of inactivity. But now that he’s here, what's been his mindset in camp going into this fight?
Artur is emotionally very stable. He’s not a guy who's going to be overanxious or overexcited or is going to crack under pressure. He’s very stable, but it’s still a fight at Madison Square Garden. It’s a big fight and I can see his enthusiasm about training and about realizing the objective that we have, to take the WBO title. For a fight like this, you can see the fighter pushing a little bit more.
Artur Beterbiev is associated with knockouts, but he has a significant boxing foundation. He was a strong amateur and can do a lot of different things in the ring. Are there aspects of his boxing ability that he (or you) decides to use for some opponents more than others?
You know what’s fun about being the trainer of Artur is that he’s a very good boxer and he can do a little bit of everything. He can box. He can put pressure. He can slug. We’ve done all of that already. I remember when we fought Tavoris Cloud, who was also a pressure fighter and a powerful guy. Everybody was expecting Artur to move around, but for that fight we determined that we were stronger. We had a better defense. We wanted to play fire against fire to start the fight. After that first round, we could see that Tavoris Cloud had nothing left in the tank. It was too much. We were beating him at his own game.
We have the option to do that [fire against fire], but we also have the option of boxing. We have many options with Artur, because he is a complete fighter.
What does this fight mean for you and your career?
It means a lot. A fighter or a coach will always try to motivate himself and challenge himself for new objectives. I have world champions, but right now this is another step. Having a unified champion and making sure we will get not only three but maybe four [titles]...this is the objective. This keeps motivating the boxer and also the coach.