Sometimes a fighter just fights to the level of his challenger. And sometimes there’s more to it. Thanks to Covid-19 it took Joe Smith Jr 280-days to get his first title defense. Three times things fell apart, and would’ve been four if not for Steve Geffrard. After his successful 9th-round knockout win, there’s one question now. Who’s best for Smith?
In essence it comes down to a three-horse race. Well; two if being logical. He’s surrounded by more Russians than Ukraine is. The gritty Long Islander holds the WBO light heavyweight strap. Dmitry Bivol has the WBA, and Artur Beterbiev owns the WBA and IBF. Those are 1 and 1A. Sure, you can toss the name Canelo Alvarez or even an Anthony Yarde if you’d like.
Let’s give Geffrard his due though. He WAS on an 18-fight win streak coming into the fight, but again; it could just be a case of opponent level. No one wanted an extreme short notice fight against a hammer. He did. And fighting with a tight, high guard isn’t the worst thing a boxer can do. However; there really wasn’t any noticeable adjustments. Although he did land some shots… that Smith walked through.
At the same time Smith himself still does what he’s always done. Despite the few times he tried to box the boxer. And maybe that’s just the very first step in his growth and understanding as a dialed in champion.
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Canelo still has business to do at 160 and 168. Especially if the whispers of him and Jermall Charlo are legit, those would all have to happen before he returned to 175. After all this isn’t the light heavyweight division of Sergey Kovalev. The talent pool is much better now. Even though Canelo’s IQ is better than everyone’s.
No one is getting any younger and Beterbiev is 36, so the sands in his hour glass are less than the rest. Although he is the best in the division, his question is “how much longer will he be”. He can take the bombs right now from Smith, and can box better. The rumor trickled out before his title defense that Top Rank was looking at the end of Spring to give Smith another home-field advantage at Madison Square Garden for all three-belts.
If the game plan is swing for the fences to unify, Bivol MIGHT be the better play for Smith. He doesn’t hit as hard as Beterbiev, and he’s slower; although he only has one belt. Smith would have a reach advantage against both Russians too. If it’s a matter of just money, the play would be to keep poking Alvarez, and pray.
Despite the flurries Smith threw at Geffrard, he didn’t floor him. At least till the end when his corner and referee Mark Nelson basically at the same time saw enough. It took him a little more than 4 1/2-rounds to really start mixing up body work with the head hunting. And that has to change before defense number two comes along, or there won’t be a number three.
So, who’s best for Smith? What say you: Bivol, Beterbiev, Alvarez, Yarde??