It was never a guarantee that Joe Smith Jr. would make it up the ladder. If we're being candid, the likelihood of him doing so was seemingly slim. In just his seventh pro fight, Smith would go on to lose to Eddie Caminero, a journeyman who immediately went on a six-fight losing skid.

When Smith reached the elite level, he often came up short, losing fairly wide decisions to both Dmitry Bivol and Sullivan Barrera. Like always, Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) dusted himself off and continued to take aim at the light heavyweight division's best. Some may have called it a horrific case of hubris but Smith would simply call it self-belief.

After scoring a number of big-time wins, including his first world title against Maxim Vlasov, Smith jumped right into the fire against Artur Beterbiev. Though he smiled with his fists clenched during their showdown, Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) violently took him out in two rounds.

The pragmatic next move for Smith would be a soft touch. That, of course, would imply that the 33-year-old would rather take the easy road. With Smith opting to face the best of the best, he admitted that he has no interest in taking on a lesser-known fighter.

Rematches with both Bivol and Beterbiev are at the top of his to-do list. But if neither of those clashes can come to fruition, Smith would love to dance in the center of the ring with Anthony Yarde.  

“I'd take that fight,” said Smith to

Both Yarde and Smith have something unfortunate in common - they were both stopped by Beterbiev.

In Yarde’s case, he didn't exactly crumble the moment he was hit with the Russian’s right hand. Although he was stunned repeatedly, he tucked his chin, bit down on his mouthpiece, and threw bombs at the current unified champion.

That ballsy performance didn't result in a title reign but it did force Smith to give Yarde a standing ovation.

“Anthony Yarde put up a great fight with Beterbiev. He looked great.”

As recently reported, Yarde is scheduled to return on September 23 as part of the undercard to the Zhilei Zhang vs. Joe Joyce rematch. No opponent has been set.