Joe Smith’s Power and Stamina Do the Job, Despite One Judges’ Horrid Card



Joe Smith’s Power and Stamina Do the Job, Despite One Judges’ Horrid Card

Jesse Hart said in the lead in he wanted a rumble, wanted to trade, wanted to fight, and maybe to the point he'd end up in the hospital. But when the time came to actually fight that way versus the gunslinger Joe Smith, at Hard Rock in AC, and on ESPN, it wasn't that way.

Hart on Saturday night worked hard to evade Smith's right hand launches and Smith never gassed out. Like the Terminator, he kept coming forward, the look on his face never changing. Forward he came and Hart had to work his butt off to not get tagged. Hart hit the deck once, and really, everyone expected a wide Smith decision victory after ten rounds.

What, everyone forgot, #boxing?

One judge had Hart, the Philly fighter, ahead by a point…but luckily Mr. Magoo was outvoted by the two others who didn't fall asleep for long stretches.

This was a solid style matchup for Smith, props to promoter Joe DeGuardia for landing this opportunity for the Long Islander, who has a tree-trimming business on the side. He will be looking at a sweet payday his next time out.

Here is the release sent out by Top Rank on the card as a whole:

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Jan. 11, 2020) —  Philadelphia's Jesse Hart wanted revenge. Joe Smith Jr. didn't let that happen.

Smith, who knocked out Hart's mentor and fellow Philly pugilist Bernard Hopkins in 2016, was dominant but had to settle for a split decision in the Top Rank on ESPN main event in front of 3,415 fans at Etess Arena at Hard Rock Live. While it appeared to be a clear decision for Smith, one judge scored the bout 95-94 for Hart, while Smith prevailed on the other cards by scores of 98-91 and 97-92.

“I knew no matter how hard I got hit, I just had to stay busy,” Smith said. “That's what I did tonight, and I am coming home with the win.

“This win means everything for me. I had to make a statement that I belong at this level.”

Smith (25-3 20 KOs) played the role of pressure fighter throughout, while Hart (26-3, 21 KOs), who attempted to box on the outside, could not keep the Long Island native at bay. For Smith, it was a rebound win, as he lost a title challenge to WBA light heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol last March. Hart, a two-time world title challenger at super middleweight, is now 1-1 as a light heavyweight. 

Said Hart: “I hurt my right hand a week ago. You can see it’s messed up. I don’t want to make no excuses because Joe fought a great fight. I hurt the hand in my last sparring session and thought I could overcome that. Credit to Joe for doing what he had to do.”

Nelson Stops Kilic

Steven “So Cold” Nelson made the most of his ESPN-televised debut, grinding down and then stopping Cem Kilic in the eighth round to win the NABO super middleweight title.

Nelson (16-0, 13 KOs), a stablemate of pound-for-pound great Terence “Bud” Crawford, spent the first 14 bouts of his career as a light heavyweight. He moved down to the super middleweight ranks at the end of 2019, and after only two fights in the division, he has added his name to the list of contenders.

Kilic (14-1, 9 KOs) trailed 70-63 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

“I’m just happy that there was no harm done to me and no major harm done to him. He’s a great opponent,” Nelson said. “By this time next year, I want to fight for a world title. I leave that in the hands of my management and Top Rank.”

— Xander Zayas (3-0, 2 KOs), the 17-year-old Puerto Rican sensation, cruised to a four-round unanimous decision over Corey Champion (1-2, 1 KO) in a four-round welterweight bout (40-36 2x and 40-35).

“It was a good experience for me to get those four rounds in,” Zayas said. “I wasn’t disappointed, but I was trying to get the KO. It didn’t come. I wasn’t worried. We did our job and we move forward.”

— Top lightweight prospect Joseph “Blessed Hands” Adorno (14-0-1, 12 KOs) received the first blemish on his record, as he was held to an eight-round split draw against noted spoiler Hector Garcia (14-7-4, 8 KOs). The scores were 77-75 Adorno, 77-75 Garcia and 76-76.

— South Philadelphia-born heavyweight Sonny “The Bronco” Conto (6-0, 5 KOs) scored the fourth first-round stoppage of his young career, knocking down veteran Curtis Head (5-5, 3 KOs) three times.

— Welterweight Shinard Bunch (6-1, 5 KOs) moved his unbeaten streak to five with a sixth-round TKO over Dennis Okoth (4-3-1, 2 KOs).

— Super bantamweight prospect Jeremy “Magic Hands” Adorno (4-0, 1 KO) pitched a four-round shutout (40-35 3x) over Fernando Ibarra (2-3, 0 KOs).

—New Jersey-based super middleweight Chris Thomas (14-1-1, 9 KOs) stopped Samir Barbosa (37-17-3, 26 KOs) at 46 seconds of the opening round.


Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.