Joe DeGuardia undoubtedly enjoyed watching Joe Smith Jr. knock Bernard Hopkins out of the ring four years ago.
Smith’s eighth-round knockout victory over the legendary middleweight and light heavyweight champion completely changed Smith’s career. To some fans, that remains Smith’s most memorable win, even though Hopkins was 51 years old when they fought in December 2016.
DeGuardia, Smith’s longtime promoter, considers the light heavyweight contender’s work during his most recent win the most complete performance of Smith’s 11-year pro career.
Eleider Alvarez entered their 12-round WBO elimination match as a 2-1 favorite. That didn’t stop Smith from dominating the former WBO 175-pound champion through eight rounds, before he knocked the Colombian veteran through two bottom ropes and onto the ring apron, flat on his back, in the ninth round August 22 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
That tremendous victory advanced Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) into a fight Saturday night against Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title.
Smith became the first opponent to knock out Alvarez (25-2, 13 KOs). The Mastic, New York, native was ahead by big margins on the scorecards of judges Julie Lederman (79-73), Dave Moretti (80-72) and Patricia Morse Jarman (79-73) through eight rounds.
“Well, when you put everything together and you’re looking from start to finish – the boxing, the punching, the pressure, yes, I loved the performance,” DeGuardia said Monday during a virtual press conference. “I thought he did an excellent performance against Alvarez. And it was from start to finish, and he dominated a guy who had never been dominated like that ever, knocked out a guy that was a former world champ. I thought it was a great performance.
“I’ve been thrilled by a lot of performances by Joe because he’s got that one-punch knockout power. So, you know, I liked the Bernard fight, the knockout of the ring. I loved the Fonfara fight [a first-round TKO win in June 2016]. But yeah, I think the Alvarez fight, altogether, from soup to nuts, start to finish, was his top performance.”
The 31-year-old Smith is slightly more than a 3-1 favorite to beat Vlasov in a main event ESPN will televise from MGM Grand Conference Center.
The network’s three-bout broadcast, which is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. EST, also will include a 10-round lightweight bout between Ghana’s Richard Commey (29-3, 26 KOs), a former IBF champ, and the Dominican Republic’s Jackson Marinez (19-1, 7 KOs). In the other televised fight, heavyweights Jared Anderson (7-0, 7 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, and Kingsley Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), a native Nigerian who resides in Phoenix, are set to square off in a six-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.