Joe Smith Jr. batters Geffrard to defend light heavyweight title
SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 15, 2022 – WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. sent his hometown fans happy into the cold night from the Turning Stone Casino, battering a game Steve Geffrard of Miami to retain his WBO World Light Heavyweight title. Geffrard took a knee one minute into the ninth round when Smith Jr. hit him with a dozen-plus shots. His corner wisely called the fight 37 seconds into the round.
“I would have like to stay a little sharper at points and busy with my punches, but I got the job done,” said Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 KOs) did what he was supposed to do, giving Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs) a generous, constant serving of power punches, seasoned with some boxing and movement. Smith Jr. even showed some improved upper body defensive movement.
But make no mistake, Smith Jr. still has the mindset of the union laborer he was for many years. He digs In and keeps coming.
Geffrard took a massive step up on just eight days’ notice, and he didn’t embarrass himself.
He maintained a tight high guard and forced Smith Jr. to seek alternative ways to catch him. Geffrard gained priceless experience as a sparring partner for top talents like Sergey Kovalev and Canelo Alvarez. He’s plenty tough. But defense and toughness will only last so long against a relentless puncher like Smith Jr., and Geffrard had only fought past eight rounds once in his career before Saturday.
A straight right hit the mark with time left in the fifth round, and Smith Jr. pounced on Geffrard. Referee Mark Nelson kept a close eye on Geffrard. Between rounds, Nelson advised Geffrard and trainer Kevin Cunningham to ‘show me something.’
Geffrard: ‘Thank you for making it here’
Geffrard hung in, but Smith Jr. kept coming like a Terminator. Trainer Cunningham did his best to encourage Gerrard to seize the opportunity he’d been handed. Geffrard told him after the seventh round his shoulder wasn’t right – likely due to Smith Jr.’s left hook pounding away at it. Cunningham gave Geffrard as much rope as he could, but the veteran did the right thing when it became pointless.
Smith Jr. thanked Geffrard for stepping up.
“Thank you for making it here. You put on a great show for all the fans watching. He was very rough. I waited till the later rounds to throw more combinations to pick him apart.”
Smith Jr. said he applied pressure to tire out Geffrard due to his lack of experience in later rounds.
Smith Jr. performed far better than he did in his title fight against Maxim Vlasov. But it wasn’t the electrifying version of Smith Jr. who wiped out Eleider Alvarez or Andrzej Fonfara. Smith Jr. has ambitious plans and says he wants to get right back in the gym.
Smith Jr.: Ready for Beterbiev, Bivol, or Canelo next?
“Each and every time I get in the ring, I want to get better,” said Smith Jr.
Ahead are his light heavyweight rivals Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol. The big prize, Canelo Alvarez. Smith Jr. said his preference is to unify at light heavyweight, first against Beterbiev and then a rematch with Bivol, then offer a unification fight to Alvarez.
But if that call comes from San Diego?
“Hey, if Canelo wants to come to 175 and fight me, I’m ready,” said Smith Jr. “Everyone would love to see that fight. It would be a big deal.”
Smith Jr. and Beterbiev would engage in a war of attrition, but Beterbiev could be fading at age 37. Bivol is a much trickier technical puzzle to solve, and he’s the more significant threat to both Smith Jr. and Alvarez. Another fighter like Gilberto Ramirez may enter the sweepstakes in the meantime.
Nova calls out Navarrete after TKO win
Abraham Nova of Albany, New York via Puerto Rico (21-0,15 KOs) won his first fight after stepping down to the featherweight division against late replacement William Encarnacion of the Dominican Republic (19-2, 15 KOs). Nova got rocked by a hard right hand in the first round by Encarnacion. However, Nova shook it off, settled down, and regained control midway through the bout.
Nova got into a power-punching groove from the sixth round forward, wearing Encarnacion down. Encarnacion’s corner had referee Benjy Esteves wave off the fight at 55 seconds of round eight when the accumulated damage became too much.
“It felt good to fight close to home a day after my birthday,” said Nova. “I had a tricky opponent in front of me, but I was able to get the job done. I was happy with my conditioning coming down to 126. I wasn’t tired at all. I felt in shape, and I had a second gear.”
Nova admitted he needs to work on his defense and comes in too cold in the first round, but he sees it and will work on it.
Nova moved to featherweight to take on current WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete of Mexico, setting up a Puerto Rico vs. Mexico contest. “Everything thinks he’ll blow me out. Put him in there, and let’s see.” Nova called out Navarrete to the camera in Spanish, saying if he thinks he can beat him, come and prove it.
Undercard results: Tucker, Isley, Rosario, Pinchuk prevail
If you’re in the highly competitive welterweight division, you better not be a slacker. Good thing 18-year-old Jahi Tucker of New York (6-0, 4 KOs) is an aggressive, fan-friendly fighter who likes to leave an impression. Tucker took out Aheem Black of Milwaukee (6-5, 2 KOs) with an intelligent display of power punching for a second-round TKO.
Black barely made it out of the first round after a knockdown near the bell, and referee Charlie Fitch put him on a short leash, stopping the bout at 1:18 of the round.
U.S. Olympian Troy Isley of Alexandria, Virginia (4-0, 2 KOs) went the distance in his first six-round fight.
Getting in solid work against Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano out of Florida via Puerto Rico. Scores were 59-53 and 59-54 X 2.
Cruz Cubano is an experienced sparring partner and offered a tough chin, if not any significant threat. This type of matchmaking helps a talent like Isley learn patience and tests his stamina.
Super lightweight Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs) gave the Puerto Rican fans something to cheer. He defeated Brooklyn’s Raekwon Butler (4-2, 2 KOs). Rosario landed double the punches and nearly half his power punches, including good-looking body shots.
In the opening bout, cruiserweight Lyubomyr Pinchuk of Ukraine (14-2-1, 8 KOs) defeated Jose Mario Flores (8-3-2, 4 KOs) of Washington DC. Scores were 80-72 and 79-73 X 2.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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