Joe DeGuardia isn’t convinced that the WBO will make Joe Smith Jr. fight Anthony Yarde next.
DeGuardia, Smith’s co-promoter, informed BoxingScene.com that the WBO hasn’t determined if England’s Yarde is the mandatory challenger for Smith’s light heavyweight title. Smith made an optional defense of his WBO belt Saturday night, when he stopped Steve Geffrard in the ninth round at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Yarde knocked out countryman Lyndon Arthur in the fourth round of their rematch December 4 at Copper Box Arena in London. Frank Warren, whose company promotes Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs), has repeatedly stated that Smith must fight Yarde next because the hard-hitting contender defeated Arthur (19-1, 13 KOs), then the WBO’s number one contender, in an elimination match last month.
“He’s not the mandatory right now,” DeGuardia told BoxingScene.com. “Committees have to get together to determine who the mandatory is. He’s got a win over Lyndon Arthur, who was number one, but it’s up to the sanctioning body to make a determination as to who’s gonna be the mandatory and if, in fact, Joe is gonna be ordered to fight a mandatory [next]. Because look, if you have a massive unification fight out there, that might not even be ordered. So, we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs), of Mastic, New York, wants a higher-profile fight next. His hit list, in order, is IBF/WBC champ Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), a rematch with WBA champ Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) and the most lucrative fight of all – a showdown with undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs).
“I want the bigger fights,” Smith told BoxingScene.com after he defeated Geffrard. “[Yarde] is a big fight. If we have to make that happen, I’ll take it. But I want the belts and the pound-for-pound king.”
A title unification fight versus Beterbiev should be easier for Smith to secure than fights against Bivol or Alvarez because Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. co-promotes Beterbiev and Smith.
The 32-year-old Smith was supposed to defend his title against England’s Callum Johnson on Saturday night. Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs), who withdrew from their fight once he contracted COVID-19, replaced Russia’s Umar Salamov (26-2, 19 KOs) as Smith’s opponent in mid-November because Salamov couldn’t secure a visa to travel to the United States.
Smith and Salamov were scheduled to fight October 30 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. Smith tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-September, though, and his first title defense was postponed 2½ months.
Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs) was an unknown underdog who took his fight with Smith on only eight days’ notice. Smith dropped the Boca Raton, Florida, native about 25 seconds into the ninth round, which led to Geffrard’s trainer, Kevin Cunningham, stopping their scheduled 12-round championship match.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.