By Dan Ambrose: WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. stands to gain a massive fight against Canelo Alvarez in May or a unification clash against IBF/WBC champion Artur Beterbiev if he wins tonight in his defense against Steve Geffrard.
(Photo credit: Mikey Williams (Top Rank via Getty Images)
Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) defends against his fill-in replacement opponent Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs) in the main event on ESPN at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
Assuming Smith successfully defends his WBO 175-lb title against the 31-year-old Geffrard tonight in New York, he’s one of a small handful of options for the superstar Canelo’s next fight on May 7th.
It’s believed that Canelo will choose one of these fighters for his next fight on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend in May:
Joe Smith Jr.
Of course, with Canelo, he could pull a name out of his hat by choosing someone that you least suspect. In that case, he could be Daniel Jacobs, John Ryder, Gennady Golovkin, David Benavidez, or Demetrius Andrade.
However, it’s unlikely Canelo will choose any of these options because he’s going through a belt-craze stage where he’s entirely driven by his need to capture belts.
Canelo will decide
“The ball is in Canelo’s court,” said Top Rank boss Bob Arum to Sky Sports on Alvarrez, being the one that will decide his next opponent for May 7th, be it Joe Smith, Ilunga Makabu, or possibly Jermall Charlo.
“Canelo is the biggest attraction in boxing now, he’s a tremendous talent and a tremendous fighter, and he more or less picks his opponents.
“He also tries to get the best guys. So, he could fight [Artur] Beterbiev, he could fight Smith, but it’s up to Canelo, and I think he’s looking to do a fight in May,” said Arum.
It’s difficult to imagine that Canelo would choose the unbeaten IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Beterbiev (17-0, 17KOs) as his next opponent for May 7th because it’s such a big jump up in class and ability from the fighters he’s been facing since 2018.
Canelo has shown a pattern in the last four years of the kind of opponents he prefers facing, and Beterbiev doesn’t fit the description due to his ability.
Generally, Canelo has picked opposition that had almost no chance of beating him, and he’s stayed away from the fighters that could hand him his second career defeat.
Beterbiev would have an excellent chance of beating Canelo, as would Benavidez, Joe Smith Jr., and Bivol. Hence, none of those fighters have been chosen by the Mexican star.
Does Joe Smith Jr. enter Canelo sweepstake?
“Joe Smith Jr. fights this weekend. He was originally scheduled to fight Callum Johnson, which I was really interested in because you have had two heavy-hitters going at it in a fight that would have ended by knockout,” said Chris Mannix on Boxing.
“Johnson had to bow out due to COVID, and you have Steve Geffrard stepping in. Geffrard has won eighteen fights in a row but is a very low-level type of opponent.
“Not huge expectations for Geffrard coming into this fight. What I’m kind of curious about is less this fight but what comes next for Joe Smith because there’s going to be a lot of interesting parties out there in Joe Smith.
“If you’re Top Rank, maybe you want to try and make that Joe Smith vs. Beterbiev fight, which would be for three belts in the 175-lb division. If you’re Canelo and Joe Smith gets through this fight, does he enter those sweepstakes?
“I doubt it, but he’s got a light heavyweight belt, and he’s an American,” said Mannix on Canelo, potentially showing interest in fighting WBO 175-lb champion Smith if he wins his fight tonight against Geffrard.
“You can probably market that fight pretty decently, especially if you’re willing to do the fight in New York. Daniel Jacobs is out there and is fighting in February [against John Ryder].
“That’s someone that has been talked about between those two guys [Smith and Jacobs] over the last two weeks or so.
“Assuming Joe Smith gets through this fight relatively unscathed, what do you see in the future for him in the light heavyweight division?”
Beterbiev an option for Smith’s next fight
“The obvious fight to make and the fight that people wanted to see is Joe Smith against Artur Beterbiev,” said Keith Idec. “Beterbiev is the biggest knockout puncher in boxing among the world champions, and he’s knocked out every pro opponent with 17 fights and 17 knockouts.
“That fight should be able to be made because they’re both co-promoted by Top Rank. The way it was explained to me, Joe Smith was not happy with the financial offer he received to fight Beterbiev.
“He wants more money for the fight. If he gets that money, the [Beterbiev vs. Smith Jr] fight can be put together. It’ll be a big event in Montreal at the Bell Centre or at Madison Square Garden or you can put it in Long Island.
“That would be perfect because Joe Smith would draw a lot of fans from Long Island for the fight. So you can make some money for the gate for this fight whether you put it in Canada or New York.