Pick It: World Champion Artur Beterbiev vs. TBRB #3 Callum Smith (Saturday, ESPN, 10:00 PM EST)   

While it isn’t the first fight card of the year, we can probably consider this the real start to the 2024 boxing ‘season.’ 38-year old lineal light heavyweight king Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KO) has acquired every belt in the division except the one around the waist of his chief rival: Dmitry Bivol. 33-year old former WBA super middleweight titlist Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KO) is younger, taller, but also even more inactive coming into the fight than the oft injured Beterbiev.

There is specualtion we may finally get Beterbiev-Bivol this year. Smith might be the last remaining obstacle. When has that ever gone wrong in boxing? This is a solid match on paper and has its share of smart folks on upset watch. Thrilling super middleweight Christian Mbilli will also be in action.  

Additional Show to Watch 

Saturday - Gholam vs. Setemala (DAZN, 11:00 AM EST)

Lightweights top the bill on this card from Abu Dhabi. 28-year old Moussa Gholam (20-1, 12 KO) bounced back from a lone split-decision loss with a win last time out. 32-year old Lunga Sitemela (15-1, 9 KO) will look to make it three straight since his own lone decision loss. Lunga’s last two victories came via knockout. 

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com