By Jim Calfa: Joe Smith Jr. took advantage of the spotlight on him by calling out the mega-money star Canelo Alvarez and IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev on Saturday night after machine-gunning the hopelessly overmatched Steve Geffrard in the ninth round to get the knockout victory at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
(Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images)
Geffrard came into the fight with the wacky game plan of standing directly in front of Smith with a high guard, hoping to tire him out by blocking his big shots.
The plan was doomed from the start because even though Geffrard was blocking most of the incoming shots, the punches were still hitting his gloves hard and pushing them into his face.
Moreover, the punches that did get through were like sledgehammer shots from Smith Jr, who is arguably the second biggest puncher in the 175-lb division behind Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs).
WBO light heavyweight champion Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 KOs) put replacement opponent Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs) down in the ninth after blasting him with two separate prolonged salvos of punches to the head.
“I was trying to get him out of there early, but I realized he was very tough and I wasn’t going to be able to do that,” said Smith Jr. about Geffrard. “I tried to wait until the later rounds and started throwing more combinations to pick him apart,” said Smith.
Although Geffrard withstood the first eight-punch combination burst from the Long Island, New York native Smith Jr. in the ninth, he collapsed on the canvas during the second rapid-fire salvo of headshots.
While Geffrard was down, his corner had the fight stopped. From the way Geffrard looked, the contest would be stopped anyway. The 31-year-old Geffrard looked like Rip Van Winkle, having woken from a 20-year snooze and not in any condition to resume fighting.
Even if the fight hadn’t been stopped, Geffrard wasn’t going to be allowed to fight looking the way he did. He looked hurt and disoriented.
Hopefully, Geffrard is OK because he took two separate flurries of heavy headshots from Smith Jr. in the ninth round before going down. It would be a good idea for Geffrard to get checked out at the nearest hospital because he ate of shots tonight.
“[IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev] is what I want,” said Joe Smith Jr. after the fight. “I want to get back in the gym, work on my craft, and like I say each and every time I get in the ring; I’m going to get better and better. I believe the next time you see me, I’ll be ready for anybody,” said Smith Jr.
“If Canelo wants to come to 175 and fight me, I’m ready for him. That’s the fight I want. Everybody would love to see that fight. It would be a big deal.”
Beterbiev will likely take the fight with WBO 175-lb champion Joe Smith Jr. if it makes sense for him financially, but Canelo Alvarez, it isn’t very likely. He looks like his focus is on fighting easy marks like WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu.
If Canelo made a move up to175, it would be wise for him to face either Smith Jr. or Dmitry Bivol next. Bivol isn’t much of a puncher, so that would be an excellent starting point for Canelo at 175.
You can’t count Canelo’s past fight at 175 against former WBO champion Sergey Kovalev as an authentic experience because the fight looked strange as if the Russian fighter had been zombified.
Kovalev wasn’t throwing punches with any power on them, and he looked like he was competing at one-quarter speed.
The only round where Kovalev briefly turned up the head on Canelo was the eight, and he looked like he was toying with the Mexican star in that round.
The weight of Kovalev’s shots in the eighth were throwing Canelo around the ring. But in the ninth, Kovalev seemed to go back to fighting at less than full power, and Canelo resumed his domination.