Joe Smith Jr shook off the rust and eventually stopped a survival-minded Steve Geffrard in the ninth round last night in Verona, New York. Smith, making a first defence of the WBO light-heavyweight title, should have faced Callum Johnson but Johnson came down with Covid and Geffrard came in at late notice. Smith won every round as he patiently looked for openings. Finally, after a 16-punch barrage in the ninth, Smith got the stoppage win at the :37 second mark.
Smith Jr is now 28-3(22), while Geffrard, who may never get another big chance like the one he was afforded last night, falls to 18-3(12). So what next for Smith? Winner of four on the spin since being stopped by Dmitry Bivol in March of 2019, 32 year old Smith of Long Island wants “big names.” After returning to winning ways last night, this after a ring absence of nine months, Smith called out feared Russian tank Artur Beterbiev.
“[Artur Beterbiev] is what I want,” a victorious Smith said last night. “I want to get back in the gym, work on my craft, and like I say each and every time I get in the ring, I’m going to get better and better. I believe the next time you see me, I’ll be ready for anybody.”
Like just about every name fighter currently operating anywhere from 160 to 200 pounds, Smith Jr is also looking at a possible mega-fight opportunity with Canelo Alvarez.
“If Canelo wants to come to 175 and fight me, I’m ready for him. That’s the fight I want,” Smith said. “Everybody would love to see that fight. It would be a big deal.”
While just about any Canelo fight is a bid deal, we must wait and see if the Mexican star goes for that cruiserweight belt he has spoken of (in a fight with Ilunga Makabu, providing Makabu gets past Thabiso Mchunu on Don King’s Jan. 29 card), or if Canelo will instead face a super-middleweight foe. Or might Canelo actually face Beterbiev? Beterbiev, who holds two belts, is looked at by most as THE best 175 pounder out there today, and Canelo would get massive props from the fans if he took this risky fight.
As would Smith Jr get nothing but respect if he took on and defeated the unbeaten Russian banger. Either way, Smith Jr deserves a big fight next. As he has made clear, Smith, an old-school fighter, is willing to face anyone.