By: Sean Crose
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City hosted a Top Rank promoted, ESPN aired card on Saturday that featured light heavyweight contenders Jesse Hart and Joe Smith in a scheduled ten rounder. With the winner inching closer to a major title shot, there was a lot on the line for each action oriented fighter walking in. Smith’s claim to fame was literally knocking the great Bernard Hopkins into retirement. Hart, on the other hand, was being presented as an avenging angel from Hopkins’ native Philadelphia. Although not a major matchup, it was a solid, mid level affair between two fighters of note. It was a good bout to ring in 2020 with.
First up, the 15-0 super middleweight Steve Nelson faced the 14-0 Cem Kilic in a scheduled 10 round bout. The first round was rather uneventful, but Nelson was landing cleaner. The second round saw Nelson looking the bit sharper of the two. The third was essentially the same in that Kilic was slow in pulling the Trigger. The fourth may have been a bit more competitive, though it would have been hard not to give the chapter to Nelson. Nelson continued along in the fifth.
By the sixth it was obvious that Kilic would have no chance of winning if he didn’t start landing clean. The seventh saw Nelson really taking it to his man. Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt wisely stood up on the ring and waved the fight off in the eighth. The beating Kilic was receiving at that point was simply too unrelenting and consistent.
It was time for the main event. Smith entered the ring with a 24-3 record. Hart boasted a record of 26-2. Smith was the aggressor in the first while Hart circled the ring. Smith hurt his man a bit late in the second, though Hart didn’t go down. Hart began to connect in the third. Smith, quite simply started beating Hart up in the fourth. Hart had no answer for Smith’s aggression in the fifth. Smith kept up his attack in the sixth.
Smith dropped his man in the seventh. Hart got up, and was saved by the bell. Hart was able to land a bit in the eighth. The ring doctor checked out a Hart cut in the ninth, but allowed Hart to continue. The final round saw Smith grind along as he had the entire fight. Smith was simply the stronger man of the two. The judges gave Smith the SD win.
Smith now finds himself on track for a light heavyweight title shot.