Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena (Atlantic City, N.J.) – TOMORROW at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT on ESPN – Undercard Streaming on ESPN+ at 6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT
Jesse Hart 175 lbs vs Joe Smith Jr. 174.6 lbs
(vacant NABO light heavyweight title — 10 Rounds)
Steven Nelson 167.8 lbs vs. Cem Kilic 167.6 lbs
(vacant NABO super middleweight title — 10 Rounds)
ESPN+ (6:30 p.m. ET)
Joseph Adorno 136 lbs vs. Hector Garcia 135 lbs
(Lightweight — 8 Rounds
Chris Thomas 170.6 lbs vs. Samir Barbosa 168.2 lbs
(Super Middleweight — 6 Rounds
Shinard Bunch 147.2 lbs vs. Dennis Okoth 145.6 lbs
(Welterweight — 6 Rounds)
Sonny Conto 218 lbs vs. Curtis Head 271.6 lbs
(Heavyweight — 4 Rounds)
Jeremy Adorno 121.6 lbs vs. Fernando Ibarra 121.4 lbs
(Super Bantamweight — 4 Rounds)
Xander Zayas 147.2 lbs vs. Corey Champion 146.8 lbs
(Welterweight — 4 Rounds)
JOE “THE BEAST” SMITH JR. (24-3 20KO’S) made his pro-debut in 2009 and spent much of his early years in boxing developing in the New York boxing scene, most notably at Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing praised “Rockin’ Fight” series at The Paramount. Fast forward to 2016 and the year of “THE BEAST” was truly upon us.
Starting in June of ’16, Smith Jr. traveled to Chicago, the hometown of then #2 world rated light heavyweight, ANDREZJ FONFARA. In a stunning upset, Smith Jr. unleashed a furious double-handed attack, delivering a perfectly placed right to the temple of the home-town 16-1 favorite, dropping Fonfara just 64-seconds into the fight. Fonfara wearily rose to his feet, but it wasn’t long until Smith Jr. resumed his onslaught, planting Fonfara on the canvas for good, at the 2:32 mark of the first round. Smith Jr. earned the WBC International Light Heavyweight Title as well as upset of the year honors.
With momentum on his side, Smith Jr. was hand-picked by boxing legend, BERNARD HOPKINS as the opponent for his farewell fight on HBO at The Forum in California. However, come fight night, Smith Jr. was the one bidding farewell, as he landed a devasting multi-punch combination in the eight-round, sending Hopkins clear out of the ring, and into retirement. Smith Jr. would be the first, and only, fighter to knockout the legend, Hopkins. With this TKO victory, Smith Jr. defended his WBC International light heavyweight title and became the #2 rated light heavyweight in the world.
Turning to 2017, Smith Jr. found himself going toe to toe with Cuban veteran, SULLIVAN BARRERA, back at The Forum on HBO. Once again showing his immense power, a one punch overhand right landed flush on the top of Barrera’s head, putting the Cuban on the floor. To the vet’s credit, Barrera would stand inside the 10-count and continue the fight. In the second-round, Smith Jr. would break his jaw, but incredibly continued to fight for the remaining eight-rounds of the bout. Smith Jr. would fall short by decision, but received praise for his insane toughness, and fortitude.
Finally recovered from his injury, Smith Jr. made his triumphant return to the ring at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2018, taking on tough southerner, MELVIN RUSSELL. Wasting no time returning to his power punching ways, Smith Jr. devoured the overmatched Russell by a devastating upper cut, causing referee Steve Willis to stop the action just 2:40 into the first round.
2019 saw Smith Jr. get his first crack at a world title against Russian technician, DMITRY BIVOL at Turning Stone Resort Casino for the WBA World Light Heavyweight Championship. Smith Jr. would take the champion the full 12-rounds, highlighted by a massive right hand that landed at the end of the tenth-round leaving Bivol on unsteady legs, however, without enough time left on the clock to capitalize. Smith Jr. would fall short by unanimous decision to Bivol in the championship fight.
With the start of 2020, Smith Jr. returns to familiar territory, fighting his way into world championship contention. The “Common Man” as he is affectionately known by his fellow union members, must first take on former two-time world title challenger, JESSE “HOLLYWOOD” HART (Philadelphia, PA 26-2 21KO’s) in a top light heavyweight battle. Hart, mentored by Bernard Hopkins, believes this is his chance to get revenge for the way Hopkins was defeated by Smith in 2016. Smith Jr. knows a spectacular victory over the likes of Hart, puts another world title challenge at arms-length. One thing is for sure, fireworks are bound to be set off, and a great main event lies ahead this Saturday night.
#HartSmithJr is the talk of the boardwalk and boxing leading up to this Saturday’s fight night, that is sure to bring heat to the new year. Tickets are available now at ticketmaster.com. If you cannot be in attendence, tune in starting at 10PM ET on ESPN.