By Steve Kim
The last time Joe Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) was in the ring, he was capping off a banner 2016 by literally knocking Bernard Hopkins out of the ring at the Forum near Los Angeles on December 17th, scoring an eighth round stoppage. Earlier that year he had scored a shocking first round KO of heavily favored Andrzej Fonfara.
It was formally announced on Wednesday that Smith would be facing Sullivan Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) on July 15th at the Forum as part of a 'Boxing After Dark' broadcast on HBO.
So why did it take so long for Smith to get another assignment?
Joe DeGuardia, the head of Star Boxing, which promotes him explained to BoxingScene.com:
"We were looking for the (Adonis) Stevenson fight and that's the one guy my guy wanted. He wanted to fight for the championship of the world and we couldn't make that fight. It was very simple, we were chasing something that frankly was running away from us. It was like being at the dog races and you have that little rabbit that goes around the track.
"Stevenson was that rabbit and he didn't want that fight but in the meantime we wasted two months chasing it because they made it seem as though they wanted the fight. And then we were looking at a couple of other fights, a title fight, obviously the Long Island fight (versus Seanie Monaghan). We had a couple of pots boiling at the same time and I was fortunate this particular pot boiled [with Barrera]."
Stevenson, the reigning WBC 175-pound champion is facing Fonfara again on June 3rd at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Stevenson decisioned Fonfara back in May of 2014.
So with that, Smith faces the seasoned Barrera, in what figures to be a solid fight.
"It's a good fight, it's on HBO. I think Barrera is one of the guys that has the courage to face him,'' stated DeGuardia.
"One thing we've been looking for Joe is the biggest fights we can get him in. And (Sergey) Kovalev and Stevenson are both unavailable - Kovalev because of the Ward fight and Stevenson is staying away from Joe - so why not go to the next guy who's been on HBO and that kind of stuff?"
Steve Kim is the news editor for BoxingScene.com.