By: Hans Themistode
Light heavyweight contenders Joe Smith Jr. and Eleider Alvarez will be looking to give the judges the night off when the two meet August 22nd, at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A high level scalp won’t be the only reward for the victor as their contest is a WBO title eliminator.
For Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs), his rise to the top of the division was a quick one. Unfortunately for him however, so was his fall from it.
The Colombian native parlayed an undefeated career into a WBO title shot against then champion Sergey Kovalev in 2018. With most of the world doubting his capabilities, Alvarez blocked out the noise. He went out and ripped the title from Kovalev via 7th round stoppage. The smiles that accompanied his performance however was short lived. Kovalev would enact his immediate rematch clause and outclass Alvarez over 12 rounds. Since then, he’s KO’d fringe contender Michael seals earlier this year.
But while Seals never truly presented much of a threat, former title challenger Joe Smith Jr. (25-1, 20 KOs) will be another story entirely.
Over the years, Smith Jr. has earned the reputation for upsetting the Apple cart. In 2016 the Long Island native scored a first round knockout over contender Andrzej Fonfara. From there, he found himself standing across future hall of famer, albeit over 50 years of age at the time, in Bernard Hopkins. Smith Jr. would knock Hopkins right out of the ring and right into retirement. Despite his success, in his first bid to win a world title, he fell woefully short against Dmitry Bivol.
Nevertheless, that loss hasn’t put a dent in his title aspirations. In his most recent ring outing, he dominated Jesse Hart. Now, he finds himself on the cusp of another title shot should he get past Alvarez.
With four division world champion Canelo Alvarez, vacating his 175 pound WBO title in order to move back down in weight, both Smith Jr. and Alvarez are attempting to place themselves ahead of the pack to grab the vacant gold.