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Jesse Hart and Joe Smith Jr. Conference Call Transcript

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Hart-Smith and Steven Nelson-Cem Kilic two-fight telecast to air on ESPN Saturday starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT

Two of the light heavyweight division’s biggest punchers, Jesse Hart and Joe Smith Jr., are prepared for a toe-to-toe battle in a 10-rounder Saturday evening (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from the Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

Hart, Smith, Top Rank president Todd duBoef and Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuardia (Smith’s promoter) hosted a conference call Tuesday to kick off fight week. This is what they had to say.

Todd duBoef

When we announced the fight and did our {2020 kickoff press conference} in New York in December, I got up at the press conference there, and there was a lot of tension between these two guys. So I think one writer came to me and said, “You know, I was really excited for this fight.”

I was kind of excited. I wasn’t sure what was going to come of it, but after the press conference and seeing both the passion and the determination Jesse and Joe have towards this match, and really where they are in a hot division that is rich with great fighters and obviously great punchers, it came true to form in their press conference style.

Duboef excited about 2020

It’s an exciting way to start off the year. Nothing like starting it out with big punchers. I’d like to introduce Joe DeGuardia, who is a long-time friend and business partner of Top Rank, who has developed and guided Joe Smith’s career. Let him make a couple comments, and then we’ll open this up to all of you guys to ask questions.

Thank you very much, Todd. I want to thank you guys. It’s always a pleasure working with Top Rank and you and Bob. I’m looking forward to another thrilling night of ESPN action that’s being provided. This Saturday night, I’m thrilled to have Joe Smith Jr. headlining the card.

I can’t wait to see Jesse Hart and Joe Smith. As you mentioned, these are two of the hardest-punching light heavyweights in the game, in a division that’s stacked with talent, and both of these guys have over 40 knockouts between them. They are really fighting each other for another world championship opportunity.

Two guys are world title challengers fighting each other for another shot. I always love watching Joe Smith Jr. fight. He’s so exciting, and I know he’s bringing down carloads of fans that are going to be in Atlantic City to watch him. Working class people coming down to see a true working man fight. And I am really looking forward to this fight, really looking forward to Saturday night, and I think the fans are in for a treat.

Jesse Hart

The fight is beyond like… I’m not looking at what’s next. I’m not looking at a world title challenge next. With this fight starting off the year, it’s been rough on me since 2016 since that Joe Smith-Bernard Hopkins fight happened. I’m not looking at nothing else. This is, like I said at the press conference, is not business. And this is not business. This is not for bragging rights neither.

This is something that my family put on me. This fight is more of a family thing. With family, it’s personal. That’s family, so at the end of the day, for me on my end, this is for my family. This is not only for myself, and this is my family. And this is my big brother, Bernard Hopkins. January 11th is so close. You know, it’s time. Training’s been going good. No injuries.

Hart taking Smith Jr. fight seriously

Everything is really, really great. Everything just went good this training camp. I think I’ve been more focused than I’ve ever been because once something becomes personal, aside from business, it doesn’t matter about the politics of it. It doesn’t matter about the ratings or none of that.

This is, like I said, it’s probably business for him, probably just another fight. For me, it’s not. I don’t look at what’s next. When I asked Todd duBoef, Bob Arum and Carl Moretti for this fight, I looked at it from this is something I had to do for myself. So January 11th is close, so like I said, I’m in the best condition I can be in. I’m prepared. We’ll see what happens January 11th.

Joe Smith Jr.

Training camp went well. It’s one of my best camps so far. Definitely in my best shape ever, and I know I have a lot to prove. I’m looking at this fight as a chance to get myself out there again, to show that I belong in title fights. I’m looking to prove that, so I want to put on a great show for the fans, and hopefully get a title shot or something else big after this. It’s always personal with me as well.

Personal for me, and I’m also fighting for my family and other things. I want to better my life, and the way to do it is by getting in there, putting on a great show and moving forward with my career.


Joe, when you hear Jesse talk about his mentality of not caring about getting a title fight, or not using this as a springboard for a bigger fight, but just wanting to avenge the loss that his mentor and friend Bernard Hopkins took against you, what do you think about that? It’s kind of an unusual circumstance, it seems to me, in a significant boxing event.



Yeah, I mean, I don’t really understand it. I understand it to a point, I guess, but either way, he’s still in it to prove himself and do what he has to do.


When they said he wanted to fight you, did you know what the reason was at that time, or you didn’t know that until he said what he said at the press conference?

Joe Smith:

I was told that was the reason.


And when they told you that, what was your initial reaction?


I mean, if that’s what he feels he’s fighting for, good for him. I mean, but me, I’m fighting to become a world champion.


Jesse, you mentioned of course how this is a more personal bout. Has there been a target on Joe’s back since that 2016 fight? Describe your emotions when you saw your big brother go down like that.

Hart sees Smith Jr. with a target on his back

It definitely put a target on Joe’s back. I was just at the right time. Timing’s everything. When I saw that, I was really really hurt because like how Todd just explained it. He was the poster boy, but he inspired me, he inspired the little kids to be great, not to be average, not to be good, but to be great.

And it’s very hard to do that in the poverty-stricken area of North Philly that we come from. My father {Eugene “Cyclone” Hart}, he was there, but he never got the chance to fight for a world title so my dad would look at Bernard like, “That’s how it’s supposed to be done. This is how it’s supposed to be.”

Hart ready to do anything to win

My dad is Cyclone Hart, but he’s my coach. My dad is telling me he did it right, how Bernard handled things. How he takes care of his body, how he fights, how he models himself. What he came from, just because you come from the poverty-stricken area of North Philly doesn’t mean you lay down. It doesn’t mean you stop fighting. So when you got that, and then at 9 years old, Bernard Hopkins was calling my father, and they would have talks.

My dad would put Bernard on the phone with me, and he would always encourage me. “It’s time to get in the gym. You gotta start running another mile, Jesse.” These are the things Bernard told me. That inspiration. We’re all inspired by somebody, whoever it may be.

Hart admires Bernard Hopkins

When I was a little boy, that was my inspiration. That’s the guy that I model. That’s the guy who, in 2022, they’re gonna build a statue of Bernard in North Philadelphia for all the things he accomplished. What he came from, and he didn’t lay down. So that’s the thing that inspires me.

Joe, describe what it would do for your career to bounce back from the Dmitry Bivol loss and take out a top fighter like Jesse Hart. What will that mean for your career?


It will mean a lot. I believe it will prove I belong with the top guys in the division, and I believe I can get another title shot out of it.


Jesse, how much more confident do you come into this fight knowing you pretty much dominated Sullivan Barrera and knowing he pretty much dominated Joe?

Hart confident

Fighters adapt. I’m coming in confident.

I might not fight the way I fought Sullivan Barrera. Who knows? I might step to Joe. I might go blow for blow. We both got power. That’s what I wanna do. I don’t know what nobody else thinks about this but this a fight. If you listen to Todd duBoef when he talks about how the fight got made…

Jesse called and asked for Joe Smith. This wasn’t about rankings, this wasn’t about politics. And this wasn’t about I gotta fight this guy to take a step further to be line for a title shot. This wasn’t about none of that.This was simply, “Yo, see if we can get Joe Smith.”

Hart says Smith might get floored

So that mentality I’m taking in there. Let’s go. Let’s fight. It’s a fight, and it’s not a boxing match. And it’s none of that. It’s not strategic. It wasn’t strategically planned. The strategy would be to fight Eleider Alvarez because, you know, no, that’s out the window. Get Joe Smith on the line, that’s who I want to fight. Please, can y’all make it happen?

He lost to a guy I beat, but I’m not gonna fight like that come January 11th. You might get me to step to Joe. We might see Joe get floored. We don’t know.


Joe, is there motivation that maybe you have something left to prove after the losses to Dmitry and Sullivan? Do you kinda feel like you’re being overlooked, not necessarily by Jesse but from other people maybe because you haven’t had a lot of success ever since you beat Bernard Hopkins?

Smith thinks he’s being overlooked

Yeah, I definitely believe I’ve been overlooked. People always go back to the Barrera fight, but no one ever thinks about that I fought 10 rounds with a broken jaw in that fight and made it through the fight against a top contender with a broken jaw. Not many people do that. There’s been a lot of fighters, after they get a little hair fracture, they quit.

My jaw was completely broken on both sides in half and just hanging and I made it through that fight. So for me to do that….

I won that fight in my view. With this fight hearing about how Jesse was inspired by Bernard Hopkins growing up, it gives me inspiration and it motivates me to put on a great show to inspire other people who are watching me. I want people to talk about me like Jesse’s talking about Hopkins. So that’s my goal when I come out January 11th.


Jesse, obviously you spent years fighting at 168, and then you move up against Sullivan Barrera. From a physical standpoint or a boxing standpoint, how do you feel fighting at 175 as compared to when you were at super middleweight?

Hart feels stronger

I feel much more stronger. I believe my body is more mature. We were doing something in the gym yesterday, me and Bernard, we were doing some pullups and Bernard hit 25, straight from the door at {54} years old.

I hit 35 and in the gym we do this thing called repetition workout. We do the pullups, and then we do pushups, and then we do the situps, all in one thing.

So it was like with more weight on my body, it’s evening out. As far as my upper body strength, it’s all coming together at this time. Like I said, evening out like that at 168, my upper body might have been stronger but my legs couldn’t handle that, or it was just I’m top heavy.

I couldn’t put that much weight on my legs because of the weight I had to be at 168. With this, the weight is much more evened out. Legs are strong, upper body is strong, everything is physically and mentally ready to go.


My question is for Joe, actually. We’ve heard on this media call about Hart’s motivation being behind Hopkins. Can you elaborate by chance on your motivation for this fight, besides that it’s a world title shot?

Joe Smith wants world title shot

Besides a world title shot, what’s my motivation? Like I was just saying a minute ago, to inspire others to get out there and give it their best and work hard every day.


Jesse, you’ve spoken extensively about how this fight is about getting revenge for Bernard Hopkins. How important was it for you to have this fight take place in Atlantic City where pretty much all of Philadelphia can come out and raise up?

Hart sees this fight as personal

That was very very important. I even wanted it in New York or Philadelphia. I mean, Philadelphia, New York or Atlantic City. They picked Atlantic City. That’s neutral ground. That’s not too far from New York and definitely not far from Philadelphia. That was very important because I want everybody to see the 10 rounds that take place with this fight.

Again, that wasn’t important to me because if the fight had to be in Joe Smith Jr.’s backyard, I would have showed up. I’m talking about inside his home or his backyard because it’s that personal. There could have been no fans, just a bunch of dogs back there, and we still would have gotten it on. That’s how personal this is to me.


Joe, I have a question for you. Obviously it’s no secret you haven’t been the most active fighter in recent years, especially coming off the win with Bernard Hopkins, it’s just been basically one fight a year. What can you see that can help change that in 2020? Obviously aside from winning on Saturday night.

Joe Smith wants to fight 3 times in 2020

Yeah, I have to get past Jesse Hart on Saturday night. You know I’m hoping to stay busy this year. I want to fight a few times. I want to make 2020 my year. I’m really looking forward to it.


Was there anything specific holding you back or is it just a matter of like searching for the best opportunities as opposed to staying active?


The best opportunities and, after the Bivol fight, I wanted to take some time to clear my head, and I did that and took off the summer, and I came back and I’ve been feeling great since. I feel stronger and better than ever.


Jesse, obviously you want to snatch the win and that’s very important to you, but what would be personally the most satisfying way to get it. Would you want to get in there and do a Wilder-Breazeale first-round knockout or would you want an extended fight where you’re dominant? What would be your most satisfying way to win this fight?

Jesse Hart wants to dominate Smith

To win this fight in a dominating fashion, all the way around the board. From the first round to the last round is the plan now. I know there’s no quit in Joe. He showed that with Sullivan Barrera. He fought with a broken jaw. I want to dig down. I want to take Joe to that Ali-Frazier III type of knock-down, drag-out fight.

Where Ali said it was the closest he was to death. I want to see if he quits then. That’s how far I want to push Joe. I want to stay in there, and I want to see where it’s at. And I wanna see if he’s going to quit then with me. I know what I”m looking to do. I know I’m not looking to quit that night under no circumstances.


Joe, clearly this is an important fight for Hart to win and for the city and for himself, but is it a personal motivator to have two significant wins over notable Philly fighters?

Joe Smith ready to win on Saturday

Yeah, definitely. It’s gonna be a great night for me. I’m looking to come out on top, but I would like to do it in fashion, wearing the common man boxing trunks and beating another Philly fighter that underestimated me. I don’t see Jesse underestimating me, but being that he is a big fan of someone who did, and he’s from Philly… I’m just really looking forward to it. I want to put on a great show for everyone.

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