COVID continues to wreak havoc on boxing as 2022 gets underway with a late replacement in the main event on ESPN (10 PM EST).
WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe Smith Jr. was supposed to make his first defense against established, if fringe, contender Callum Johnson. Johnson is out, opening the door for Steve Geffrard’s opportunity of a lifetime. Geffrard is unbeaten since losing the first two fights of his career in 2013 and has only one fight since 2018 but crept into the WBO rankings at number fifteen this month.
It doesn’t mean Geffrard can’t fight. According to the Palm Beach Post, “As an amateur, Geffrard was the U.S. National Amateur heavyweight champion and USA Boxing’s Athlete of the Year in 2010. That year, he also reeled in National Golden Gloves, USA Boxing National and National PAL titles.” Trained by Kevin Cunningham, Geffrard has a solid foundation and now he has a chance.
Is there more to this fight than most might recognize?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Joe Smith Jr.
Current Title: WBO Light Heavyweight (2021-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 174 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Long Island, New York
Record: 27-3, 21 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #2 (TBRB), #3 (Ring), #4 (ESPN, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1
Last Five Opponents: 122-10-2 (.918)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Andrzej Fonfara TKO1; Sullivan Barrera L10; Dmitry Bivol L12; Jesse Hart SD10; Eleider Alvarez TKO9
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Bernard Hopkins KO8
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 173 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Miami, Florida
Record: 18-2, 12 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: Unranked
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Opportunity
Last Five Opponents: 115-94-4 (.549)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: None
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
The Pick: While Geffrard can point to historical amatuer success, it’s hard to understate how big an upset this would be. There are some recognizable names on his record like Denis Grachev and Dmitry Sukhotskiy and available tape of Geffrard suggests a capable fighter with a sound jab and smart counter left. There just isn’t the sort of established success to guess past the experience of Smith. Smith is heavy handed, tough, and has gone substantial rounds with some of the better light heavyweights in the world over the last five years. This is a fight where we won’t know what we have until the bell rings, and one where Geffrard has an interesting enough story to make it worth a look, but the pick is Smith by stoppage.
Rold Picks 2022: 1-0
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org