Joe Smith Keeps Hope Alive With a TKO Win Over Steve Geffrard; Calls For Beterbiev Fight Next!



Joe Smith Keeps Hope Alive With a TKO Win Over Steve Geffrard; Calls For Beterbiev Fight Next!

Facing a man who lost his first two professional fights before going on an 18-fight winning streak (albeit against less than extraordinary opposition), WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 KOs) kept his hopes for a big payday alive by scoring an eighth-round TKO over last-minute challenger Steve Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs).

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Smith got off to a quick start in the first by beating Geffrard to the punch and taking advantage of his opponent’s high guard, which allowed Smith to be busier and more effective than his opponent. Geffrard’s defense-first style and occasionally sharp counter-punching at times frustrated Smith, but his lack of activity made it impossible for him to breakthrough.

Smith took control in the last minute of the fourth, letting his hands go with alacrity and landing with regularity. While many of those blows landed on the shoulders and arms of Geffrard, several snuck through and landed clean to the body and head.

In the fifth, Smith appeared to have hurt Geffrard with his relentless attack. While Geffrard weathered Smith’s barrage of blows, he seemed quite grateful for the sound of the bell.

Joe Smith Jr. just about doubled Steve Geffrard's in punches thrown.

The motor of Joe Smith is really something. No one is going to mistake Smith for the most gifted fighter in the light heavyweight division, but no one can deny the percentage of effort he gives. He’s all 100 all the time. You could see him stealing Geffrard’s heart by just keeping coming. After the seventh, Geffrard complained that his left arm wasn’t right. Maybe it wasn’t, but the real issue was the fact that the guy in front of him just wouldn’t stop.

Geffrard, who was continually batted around the ring, gave away his chances by the look on his face after the eighth. He looked like a guy who had already lost but wasn’t quite ready to quit.

Apparently, Geffrard found the will to quit in the ninth after a fusillade of blows by Smith against all parts of Geffrard’s body in the corner sent Geffrard to the canvas and made it clear to the challenger’s corner that the fight had no reason to continue.

Steve Geffrard (L) and Joe Smith Jr (R) exchange punches during their fight for the WBO light heavyweight championship. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

The career of Joe Smith has been hard to figure. He got a fair amount of run off of beating a calcified Bernard Hopkins, and since then, has lost two of his six fights (before tonight) – both in relatively dispiriting fashion. Despite knocking down Sullivan Berrera and getting Dmitry Bivol in trouble at the end of their tussle, Smith was soundly beaten on points by both. While there may be no shame in losing to either, those types of defeats have held Smith back in his quest for a larger payday against Artur Bertebiev – a fight that has nearly happened, but in the business of boxing, “nearly” ain’t enough.

Smith has also been hit with some bad luck. He was supposed to fight Callum Johnson tonight (he of just one loss in his career – to Beterbiev), but Johnson got afflicted with COVID (Smith himself battled a case of COVID – impacting his own schedule) and had to step aside. Filling in for Johnson was the much less heralded Steve Geffrard. Smith has been told that, should he beat Geffrard, he will get Johnson or Anthony Yarde as his next opponent. This means that Smith’s hoped-for big payday/opportunity for greatness against Beterbiev (or Canelo) is now at least one more fight away.

Do we see Smith Jr. vs Beterbiev later this year? Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

While Geffrard is no Bivol, and likely not even Sullivan Barrera, it was not hard to look at this fight and see it as a bit of a trap for Smith. A loss to Geffrard (the 15th ranked fighter in the light heavyweight division) might not have been a full-on embarrassment; it surely would have made the path to a truly big fight not just longer but maybe even impossible.

In short, Smith had a modestly regarded opponent stepping into the ring on short notice tonight, and he needed to win badly to retain career momentum. To his credit, he did just that.

Smith is the kind of guy you root for. His mouth is as nondescript as his name. He’s not a talker; he’s just a fighter – and a very good one at that. But there are levels to this shit, and for Smith to get to the elite rung on the ladder, he needed to dispatch Geffrard tonight – which he did somewhat impressively – and then win the fight over a sexier opponent next, and then, maybe, just maybe knock on Bertebiev’s door again.

There’s some real peril coming for Smith and his career over the next year. He could not afford another loss, and he did well to avoid one. But tonight is only step one. Step two is likely against Johnson or Yarde.

That challenge will likely be much greater than what he faced against Steve Geffrard tonight.

Abraham “Super” Nova earns impressive TKO victory.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In search of an easier road to a title fight, Abraham Nova (21-0, 15 KOs) moved down a weight class from Super Featherweight to Featherweight. Despite getting buzzed by William Encarnacion (19-2, 15 KOs) in the first (despite sporting a hideous golden-hued beard), Nova's sharp jab allowed him to dominate most of the fight. Encarnacion took the fight on short notice after Nova's original opponent Jose Vivas pulled out due to injury. While Nova suffered a small cut over the right eye, it in no way deterred his forward movement. Nova's work to the body complimented his jab, and the punishment that Encarnacion was undergoing often showed as he suffered from multiple bouts of the stanky leg.

Nova landed several hard, straight right hands in the seventh, and Encarnacion was likely saved by the bell after Nova's onslaught. More brutishness followed in the eighth, and Encarnacion's corner threw in the towel, saving their man from further punishment. Nova's eighth-round TKO of Encarnacion may well set him up for a title bout in the Featherweight division. Nova has been calling out WBO champ Emanuel Navarrete with regularity. While Nova may want another fight or two in the weight class before taking on Navarrete, Navarrete (a bad man) probably doesn't have too many sexier options than Nova in the ring.

Is Abraham “Super” Nova ready for a title shot at Featherweight? Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

Is Nova ready? I think so. He looked comparatively huge in the ring compared to Encarnacion, and his physical dominance may make Navarrete nervous. Nova closed the show in style, and he also called out Navarrete in excellent Spanish. Nova feels he is ready; now it's up to Navarrete to respond.

During the post-fight interview, Nova had this to say about the WBO Champion Navarrete “I want {Emanuel Navarrete}, to be honest. Everybody thinks he'll blow me out. Put him in there. Let's see if he'll do it. I know I'll beat him. I know I have the punch output; I know I'll knock him out, and I know I'll be the next WBO champion.”

The undercard, televised on ESPN+, showcased four bouts.

Lyubomyr Pinchuk (L) and Jose Mario Flores (R) exchange punches during their heavyweight fight. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

Opening the show, in a battle of journeyman cruiserweights, Lyubomir Pinchuk improved to 14-2-1 (8 KOs) with a clear unanimous decision over Jose Mario Flores 8-3-2 (4 KOs).

In the second bout of the night, American Olympian middleweight prospect Troy Isley (4-0,  2 KOs) completely outclassed his game opponent, Harry Keenan Cruz-Cubano (6-3, 2 KOs), in scoring a unanimous decision – despite having a point taken away for low blows.

Harry Cruz-Cubano (L) and Troy Isley (R) exchange punches during their middleweight fight.Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

The third contest of the evening saw undefeated American welterweight prospect Jahi Tucker improve his record to 6-0 with an electrifying second-round TKO victory over Akeem Black (6-5, 2 KOs).

Jahi Tucker (L) knocks-down Akeem Black (R) during their welterweight fight. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.

The last bout before the co-headliner saw the much busier and more accurate undefeated Puerto Rican welterweight Omar Rosario improve to 6-0, with 2 KOs with a unanimous decision over American Raekwon Butler, now 4-2 with 2 KOs.

Omar Rosario (L) and Raekwon Butler (R) exchange punches during their jr. welterweight fight. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images.