Steve Geffrard attempted to add his name to the list of recent upset winners in boxing after accepting a title fight on eight days’ notice. Unfortunately for him, Joe Smith Jr. was determined and ready to defend his WBO light heavyweight title.
Smith stopped Geffrard in the ninth round at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., on Saturday night. After landing several blows that rattled his opponent, Smith landed combinations that forced Geffrard, who had never gone past eight rounds before in his career, to go down. It looked as if he wasn’t going to beat the referee’s count, and his corner ended up stopping the fight.
“He really brought it today,” Smith said after the fight. “It was a great fight. As you can see, he’s a great boxer, a good survivor. 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. I tried to wait until the later rounds and started throwing more combinations to pick him apart.”
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) controlled the ring from the first round. The Long Island, N.Y., product landed jabs and hooks at the start, pushing Geffrard back. In the clinch and pushing forward, Smith landed massive blows that managed to push through Geffrard’s solid defense. Geffrard dropped his guard for a brief moment early, and Smith landed a huge uppercut and an overhand right.
Smith started Round 2 pretending Geffrard was a punching bag and delivering multiple combinations. He landed jab and hook combinations, changing angles each time. Using a tight guard, he worked past Geffrard and landed more hooks to the body. Geffrard’s corner told him before the third round that Smith didn’t want to be in the center with him, and Geffrard was able to land a few body and face shots. He was playing it closer to the vest. It was about the only momentum Geffrard had, however. Smith would move away from the middle and attempt to punish Geffrard in the corner.
Smith opened Round 4 with body shots; Geffrard countered with jabs. A big overhand by Smith set up two uppercuts and multiple left-right combinations. Geffrard tried to act tough by baiting Smith, but Smith didn’t change his game plan. The champion continued landing volume shots in the fifth, clipping Geffrard and pushing him back. While Geffrard landed crisp shots in the fifth and combinations in the sixth, Smith continued pressing forward. After six rounds, Smith had thrown an estimated 474 punches; he threw 665 punches total in the fight.
Geffrard tried to go back to controlling the middle of the ring in the seventh, but Smith quickly countered. While he was tight with his defense, Geffrard’s offense was not reciprocating. It was later revealed that Geffrard’s left arm was hurt by multiple blows to the area. He managed to land combinations in the eighth but Smith continued his assault.
Round 9 was unfamiliar territory for Geffrard, and Smith took advantage. He backed Geffrard into the corner, landed multiple jabs that shook him, and then took him down with a hook. It was all over after that.
According to CompuBox, Smith landed 233 shots to 81 by Geffrard. Smith landed 20 or more shots in a round seven times and landed over 30 shots three times.
Smith successfully defended the WBO light heavyweight title for the first time. He was supposed to face Callum Johnson, but Johnson was pulled after testing positive for COVID-19. Smith has won four in a row and is looking to face WBC and IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev in a unification bout sometime this year. He is also interested in facing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and Canelo has shown an interest in the division again.
“If I got Beterbiev next and beat him, I want (Dmitry) Bivol next and unify all the belts. Become the unified champ and then take out the pound-for-pound king,” Smith said.
“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,” he added.
Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs) lost for the first time since 2013, ending an 18-fight win streak.