By: Hans Themistode
WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. was hoping to test the chin as well as the mental resolve of Callum Johnson. With the two scheduled to square off in the main event at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, this Saturday night, Smith Jr. was excited to display the new wrinkles he added to his game.
Yet, with a little over a week left until their showdown, Johnson was forced to withdraw from their contest due to a positive COVID-19 test result. Refusing to be removed from the card, Smith Jr. was elated when he discovered that fringe contender Steve Geffrard was ready, willing, and able to step in on only eight days’ notice.
With Geffrard presenting a completely different style in comparison to Johnson, Smith Jr. struggled early on.
Known for his ability to box, Geffrard flicked out a strong jab and stuck on the outside. Whenever Smith Jr. attempted to come in close, the Miami, Florida, resident reeled off several combinations to keep him at bay.
Throughout the entirety of Smith Jr.’s career, he grew accustomed to marching forward. This time around, however, he attempted to box. The WBO titlist bounced up and down on his toes and used slick head movement to avoid the consistent offensive attack of his man. While Smith Jr. was successful in making him miss, he seldom made him pay.
In the following round, Geffrard’s confidence continued to skyrocket. He snapped the head back Smith Jr. on numerous occasions, forcing the champion to rethink his overall game plan. With Geffrard boxing well, Smith Jr. abandoned his initial box-first approach and got his hands dirty in the fourth. As a result, he produced a strong round.
The Long Island native came out roaring in the period. He stuck his head in the chest of his man and pounded away at the body. Seemingly uncomfortable with the relentless attack to his midsection, Geffrard attempted to protect himself by bringing his hands down. That, of course, was exactly what Smith Jr. was hoping for. In the blink of an eye, the WBO belt holder split the guard of his man and landed a crisp straight right hand.
A few seconds later, Geffrard fell into the ropes and began to cover up. While Smith Jr. was unable to stop him in the frame, he continued his offensive onslaught throughout the remainder of their contest.
At one point, a seemingly dejected Geffrard revealed to his head trainer Kevin Cunningham, that something was wrong with his left shoulder. Cunningham immediately ignored Geffrard’s words and urged him to give it everything he had in order to fulfill his world title dreams.
Try as he might, Geffrard simply had nothing left in the tank as Smith Jr. mercilessly stalked him throughout. In the ninth and clearly on unsteady legs, Geffrard dropped down to a knee as he was overwhelmed by the barrage of punches.
Although Geffrard appeared unable to beat the count, Cunningham stepped in to call a halt to their contest anyways, officially handing Smith Jr. the knockout victory and allowing him to complete the first defense of his WBO crown.
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