By: Hans Themistode
Joe Smith Jr.’s path to light heavyweight gold wasn’t an easy one.
Though the Long Island native has suffered numerous bumps and bruises along the way, he’s ultimately proud that he took the long road. Following a failed attempt at dethroning WBA belt holder Dmitry Bivol in March of 2019, Smith Jr. went back to the drawing board.
After hitting the reset button, his world title dreams were finally realized after stringing together three consecutive victories, the latter coming against Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO crown. With one checkmark placed on his boxing to-do list, Smith Jr. believes he still has plenty left to accomplish.
Though the 32-year-old is mere hours away from defending his crown against fringe contender Steve Geffrard, he’s hopeful that a showdown between himself and fellow heavy-hitting unified champion Artur Beterbiev, can come to fruition.
“I believe that’s one of the biggest fights in boxing to be made,” said Smith Jr. on Max on Boxing. “It’s two huge punchers in there going at it. That’s what people like to see. They like to see people punching hard and knocking somebody out.”
Roughly one week before Christmas in 2021, Beterbiev continued his knockout winning ways and ended the world title dreams of ranked contender Marcus Browne. The two squared off in Beterbiev’s adopted hometown of Montreal, Quebec, in front of a raucous crowd.
Early on, Beterbiev was forced to deal with adversity as blood poured from his forehead due to an inadvertent headbutt. While his vision appeared to be affected at times, Beterbiev systemically broke down the former Olympian to register two knockdowns before ending their showdown in the ninth.
Considering the ferocity in which both champions throw their punches, Smith Jr. dreams of one day being able to share the ring with the unified star.
No matter how badly Smith Jr. craves their highly-anticipated showdown, however, he refuses to look past Geffrard. Originally, the newly crowned WBO titlist was expecting to face off against Callum Johnson. But, in what has become the norm, Johnson was forced to withdraw from their contest due to a positive COVID-19 test result.
Now, with Geffrard stepping in on short notice, Smith Jr. refuses to look past the Miami-born contender. Following back-to-back defeats in his first two contests as a professional, Geffrard has gone on to win 18 straight, something Smith Jr. has taken notice of.
But, despite his current form, Smith Jr. views his showdown against Geffrard as an opportunity to show off more than just the vaunted power he’s become known for.
“I believe you’re going to see a faster, sharper, just all-around fighter.”
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