Callum Smith can move forward with plans to eventually challenge for a second divisional title.
Matchroom Boxing has secured promotional rights to a WBC light heavyweight title eliminator between Liverpool’s Smith and France’s Mathieu Bauderlique. The UK-headquartered global promoter posted a winning bid of $1,069,000 during Friday’s purse bid hearing held via Zoom conference call, outbidding a $675,000 offer from Christian Cherchi’s OPI Since 82 Promotions based out of Millan, Italy.
Interestingly, Matchroom and OPI entered a partnership to present DAZN shows from Italy.
The WBC will place ten percent of the winning bid—$106,900—in escrow as a win bonus. The remaining $962,100 will be split 60-40 in favor of Smith, a Matchroom-promoted former WBA super middleweight titlist who is guaranteed at least $577,260 as the higher ranked contender. Bauderlique will claim the remaining 40 percent—$384,840—as the number-two-ranked contender.
The winner of Smith-Bauderlique will become the WBC mandatory challenger to unified lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18KOs).
A date was not announced with the winning bid, though Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn previously revealed his intentions for Smith (28-1, 20KOs) to land on the undercard of the confirmed Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title fight rematch. The heavyweight clash was since confirmed to take place August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Should the fight land on the card, it will mark the second straight fight at light heavyweight for Smith, who permanently moved up in weight for his most recent outing. Smith scored a second-round knockout of former title challenger Lenin Castillo, which took place on the undercard of Usyk’s win over Joshua last September 25 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. It was his first fight since losing his WBA super middleweight title to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in December 2020, which was very likely his last ever fight at super middleweight.
Bauderlique (21-1, 12KOs) has won nine straight since suffering his lone career defeat, a stunning first-round knockout to Dragan Lepei in his 13th pro fight more than five years ago. The 31-year-old southpaw entered the pro ranks in 2011, taking a brief break after an April 2016 win to represent France in the 2016 Rio Olympics where he captured a Bronze medal in the first year where the quadrennial event permitted pro boxers to participate.
In his most recent start, Bauderlique picked up his most significant win to date in a seventh-round stoppage of former title challenger Igor Mikhalkin last September 10 in Paris. Unless his local promoter Brahim Asloum—a former WBA junior flyweight at the pinnacle of his brief pro career—wins promotional rights, it is likely that Bauderlique will have to fight outside his native France for the first time in his career.
At 6’3”, Smith—the youngest of the four fighting Smith brothers—often enjoyed a considerable size advantage at super middleweight, though at the expense of cutting those final seven pounds that aren’t necessary at light heavyweight. The 32-year-old Liverpool native felt the difference in previous fights outside of super middleweight and again in his first fight post-title reign.
It was also his first with new trainer Buddy McGirt. Smith joined forces with the Hall of Fame former two-division champ and 2002 Trainer of the Year after a career spent with renowned cornerman Joe Gallagher. The union with McGirt remains a work in progress though the immediate effects were shown in his last fight. Dominican Republic’s Castillo went twelve rounds with WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in October 2019 and was never stopped in 25 pro fights before running into Smith last September.
The win was the first step towards a hoped for shot at either Beterbiev or Bivol, the latter who is fresh off a career-best 12-round win over Alvarez in May.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox