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- Russian boxer
JOE SMITH JR. WILL MAKE THE FIRST DEFENSE OF HIS LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE AGAINST STEVE GEFFRARD ON AN ESPN/ESPN+ CARD FROM VERONA, NEW YORK.
Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) vs. Steve Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs)
When: Saturday, Jan. 15
Time: 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (main event later in show)
Where: Turning Stone Resort and Casino, Verona, New York
TV/Stream: ESPN, ESPN+
Division: Light heavyweight
At stake: Smith’s WBO title
Pound-for-pound ranking: None
Odds: Smith 9½-1 favorite (average of multiple outlets)
Also on the card: Abraham Nova vs. William Encarnacion, featherweights; Lyubomyr Pinchuk vs. Jose Mario Flores, heavyweights
Prediction: Smith KO 8
Background: Smith has overcome limited ability and disappointing setbacks to realize his dream of winning a world title, which he claimed by outpointing Maxim Vlasov in a gritty performance this past April. Some thought the hard-punching Long Islander had hit his ceiling when he lost wide decisions to Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol in 2017 and 2019. However, he followed the Bivol setback with a surprisingly one-sided victory over Jesse Hart and then stopped capable Eleider Alvarez, which set up the fight with Vlasov for the vacant title. Smith was supposed to have made his first defense against Callum Johnson but the Englishman tested positive for COVID-19. Geffrard, who had been training for a fight on another card, agreed on eight days’ notice to step in as Smith’s opponent. The 31-year-old from Miami, a solid boxer with heavy hands, returned from a three-year layoff to defeat journeyman Denis Grachev by a unanimous decision in an eight-round bout last March. He has won 18 consecutive fights since starting his career with back-to-back losses but has never faced an opponent of Smith’s caliber. “I give Steve credit for taking this fight on short notice,” Smith 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 was originally scheduled to fight Umar Salamov on Oct. 30 but Smith had to pull out after contracting the coronavirus. The fight was rescheduled for this month. However, Salamov, from Russia, couldn’t obtain a visa to enter the U.S. Johnson then agreed to fight Smith.