Joe Smith Jr. returns to form with ninth round stoppage of Eleider Alvarez
SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 22, 2020 – Joe Smith Jr. put all the tools together to take Eleider “Storm” Alvarez apart, putting on a power punching clinic to end their light heavyweight fight in nine rounds.
Alvarez, a Colombia native living in Montreal (25-2, 13 KOs) couldn’t get his counter-punching game going against the heavy-handed Smith Jr. (26-3, 22 KOs), who looked to be in the same form as when he scored his surprising wins against Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins.
“Coming into this camp, I knew I had to work on my boxing. I knew I had to throw a lot of straight punches. I had to box a little bit more because he’s got that great right hand. He poked me with it a little, but I can take a punch,” laughed Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. said he studied Alvarez’s fight with Sergey Kovalev. “I stuck to my game plan. It was a great night. This one’s a big one, I really needed it. I wanted to prove I’m not just a knockout guy, I showed my boxing ability, and I got the knockout, too,” said Smith Jr.
Where was the Alvarez who blew out Michael Seals, and Sergey Kovalev? He was not in the building. He showed himself briefly in the seventh round, when Alvarez caught Smith Jr. and buckled his legs with a hard right hand. Smith Jr. was in cruise control at the end of the round. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.
Going into the ninth round, Smith Jr. had landed nearly double the punches as Alvarez (125 to 51) and was dominating the action, but it would have been a mistake to ignore the danger presented by Alvarez. Smith Jr. sealed the finish with a right hand sending Alvarez through the ropes and ending the bout at 26 seconds of the ninth round.
Smith Jr. will now get a title fight opportunity. Can he make the most of it this time? Smith Jr. is confident he can. “I’m going to be more prepared, stay more focused, work hard every day. I’ve got a lot more experience now and I’m ready for a second shot.
Alvarez needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out how and whether he can restore his career. He didn’t throw enough punches to be a factor, and didn’t seem comfortable. Critics will say Alvarez’s recent big wins came from lucky punches. He’s better than this, but not Saturday.
Rob Brant enjoys successful return to the ring
Former middleweight champion Rob Brant of Minnesota (26-2, 18 KOs) had a successful return to the ring under trainer Brian McIntyre, getting a TKO win in five rounds against Vitaliy Kopylenko (28-3, 16 KOs) of Kazahkstan. Referee Jay Nady stopped the fight due to a quickly shutting left eye on Kopylenko with the agreement of his corner. Brant showed a more refined, thoughtful offense, but still outlanded Kopylenko two to one.
“It really felt amazing. They’re great reminding me how to do things, to relax. The punch count wasn’t as high, but they were effective shots,” said Brant. “I spent a lot of time in camp with them. Between the advice they were giving me, and being around guys like Terence Crawford and Jamel Herring, it teaches you to relax. We get to go to gym class for a living, you should enjoy it.”
Clay Collard fights on and feels the love
The Bubble continues to be a friendly place for middleweight “Cassius” Clay Collard of Idaho (9-2-3, 4 KOs). Collard won his third appearance in Las Vegas and his eighth fight in the last 12 months against Maurice Williams of Oklahoma City (7-2, 3 KOs) by second-round TKO. Williams didn’t have any defense to offer Collard and was too rusty after a year out of the ring. Collard landed 19 power shots in the second round. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable loss. Collard appears to be ready for tougher competition.
“Staying active has made me a better fighter. You learn so much in a fight,” said Collard. “I caught him coming in with the short right hand, and after the first round my coach said, ‘He’s awkward, slow down.’ I watched what he was doing, and caught him with the left hook.” Collard seems slightly perplexed by the attention he’s been getting. “I do like all the love, it means the world to me and I really appreciate it,” said Collard.
Julian “Hammerhands” Rodriguez of New Jersey (20-0, 13 KOs) lived up to his moniker, crushing previously undefeated Anthony Laureano of Connecticut (13-1, 4 KOs) inside a round by TKO after three knockdowns. Rodriguez had been rehabbing from injury and credited a great camp for the performance. “It’s about keeping the main goal as your main focus,” said Rodriguez. “Previous to the shoulder injury I was more of a brawler coming in, When I notice the arm wasn’t holding up, it forced me to focus on my footwork. Now I have all the tools.” Rodriguez told his promoter to line them up.
Robert “Biggie” Rodriguez of Riverside (9-0-1, 5 KOs) made quick work of Abel Soriano of Nebraska (10-1, 7 KOs), handing Soriano his first defeat. It was a doozy – Rodriguez knocked Soriano down three times in the first round for a knockout win at 2:59 of the contest.
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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