By Dan Ambrose: Little-known second-tier fighter Steve Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs) will step in as the replacement opponent for WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) to defend his title against next week on January 15th. The card will be shown on ESPN at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT.
The Smith-Geffrard fight will occur at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Smith, 32, had been scheduled to fight #8 WBO Callum Johnson on January 15h, but the British fighter came down with COVID and needed to exit the card.
Joe Smith Jr. and Geffrard share a couple of common opponents in Cory Cummings and Michael Gbenga. Not surprisingly, Smith did a better job of speedily beating them than Geffrard.
There was a lot of interest from boxing fans in seeing Joe Smith Jr. defend against the heavy-handed former world title challenger Callum Johnson.
It’s too bad that the British fighter became ill with COVID. That fight would have been far more appealing than what we’ll likely see with Smith taking on replacement opponent Geffrard.
Given that this is short notice, the 31-year-old Miami, Florida native Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs) was signed on as the replacement for Smith to defend against.
Unlike boxing fans, Joe Smith Jr. is surprisingly familiar with Geffrard, saying this:
“I give Steve credit for taking this fight on short notice,” Joe Smith Jr. said. “He is a tough guy, and I expect him to bring everything he has for this opportunity.
“I’m ready to fight regardless of who is in the ring with me. My goal is the same, which is to defend my world title and keep it on Long Island where it belongs.”
Smith recently said that he’s interested in unifying the 175-lb division by beating champions Artur Beterbiev – IBF & WBC and Dmitry Bivol – WBA. He also would like to fight Canelo Alvarez if he comes up to 175 and shows interest in challenging him for his WBO belt.
Geffrard isn’t ranked in the top 15 with the WBO or any of the other three sanctioning bodies at 175, but he does have wins over these older fighters:
- Dmitry Sukhotskiy
- Denis Grachev
- Samuel Miller
- Cory Cummings
- Shannon Miller
- Michael Gbenga
Those were fighters that were involved in many notable fights many years ago, but they’ve gotten long in the tooth.
Smith Jr. captured his WBO 175-lb title recently in his last fight against Maxim Vlasov, defeating him by a 12 round majority decision last year in April in what turned to be a more complicated than expected victory. Vlasov, 35, gave Smith his toughest test since his loss to Dmitry Bivol.
In other fights on the Smith Jr. vs. Geffrard card:
- Abraham Nova vs. William Encarnacion – featherweight
- Lyubomyr Pinchuk vs. Jose Mario Flores – heavyweight
- Omar Rosario vs. Raekwon Butler – light welterweight
- Troy Isley vs. Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano – Middleweight
- Jahi Tucker vs. Akeem Black – welterweight
- Kasir Goldston vs. Nelson Morales – light welterweight
- Bruce Carrington vs. TBA – featherweight
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s crazy how boxing works,” said Geffrard. “One moment I’m thinking about boxing on a local show, then the phone rings for a chance to fight for the WBO world title on ESPN. Unreal!”
Geffrard has been kicking around the sport since 2013 but has had a low profile due to the lesser opposition he’s been fighting continuously. He would have been ranked a long time ago if he’d fought better opposition, but it just hasn’t happened.
Geffrard started his career on a sour note, losing his first two contests against Kentrell Claiborne and Travis Reeves. It’s difficult to know if Geffrard has improved since then due to the opposition being unknowns. He hasn’t been stepped up until now, which doesn’t bode well for him.
“I think with Joe Smith, you’re looking at a possible opportunity against Artur Beterbiev, and obviously you have Dmitry Bivol out there,” said Mike Coppinger to ESPN’s Max Kellerman when asked what’s on the line for Smith Jr. in his fight with Geffrard.
“You’ve got [Gilberto] Zurdo Ramirez,” Coppinger continued about possibilities for Joe Smith Jr. after his defense against Geffrard. “The fight I’ve heard about a fight that Smith might be looking at is against Danny Jacobs later this year.
“Danny Jacobs is fighting John Ryder at 168 on February 12th, and is looking to fight at light heavyweight. That’s a fight that has a real possibility of happening.”
“Danny Jacobs, that’s a New York fight,” said Max Kellerman.
A fight between Joe Smith Jr. and former IBF/WBA middleweight champion Danny Jacobs would interest East Coast boxing fans, but it won’t do much for the rest of the U.S or the worldwide audience.
Smith would be fighting Jacobs for businesses purposes to bring in money rather than it doing anything for him in terms of the 175-lb division. Jacobs would be moving up from 168 where he hasn’t done much.