Joe Smith Jr Takes Out Geffrard, Targets a Unification Bout With Artur Beterbiev
At the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, Joe Smith Jr (28-3, 22 KOs) made the first defense of the WBO light heavyweight title against late fill-in opponent Steve Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs). To say there were some bumps in the road leading up to this fight would be an understatement.
Smith was supposed to defend the belt against Russia’s Umar Salamov on October 30, 2021, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the fight was postponed after the champ tested positive for COVID-19. It was rescheduled, but visa issues prevented Salamov from traveling to the United States, resulting in the fight getting scrapped.
He was then set to face former world title challenger Callum Johnson in Verona. However, on January 4, 2021, Johnson withdrew after testing positive for COVID-19. With some last-minute scrambling to salvage the date and show, Geffrard was offered and jumped at the opportunity.
One of the hardest punchers in the division, Smith came out the gate firing behind the left jab. However, the challenger smartly fought behind a high guard. While able to find a home for body shots, the champ couldn’t land with any consistency up top during the first four rounds. But late in the fifth, he stunned Geffrard with a right hand.
NOT ENOUGH FIRE
Here was the problem for the challenger, as the action headed into the middle rounds. He was fighting well in spots. However, when fighting a world champion in his backyard, you have to raise your level and go the extra mile. Geffrard seemed unwilling to take that extra step. Smith wasn’t doing anything spectacular. He simply was more aggressive, more energetic, and had the look of a fighter who wanted it more.
At the end of the eighth, he seemed like a fighter who was on the verge of checking out. Sensing this, Smith pounced. Trapped on the ropes and taking punishment, Geffrard went down to a knee early in round nine. It was at this point that his trainer stepped in and said “no mas”.
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS AT 175
There are ongoing talks for a unification showdown between Smith and IBF/WBC 175 pound champ Artur Beterbiev for either late spring or early summer. After the win over Geffrard, Smith, and co-promoter Joe DeGuardia said a Beterbiev unification is their goal, followed by a fight with Canelo Alvarez.
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By: Michael Wilson Jr.