It took Joe Smith Jr. a little longer than the lopsided odds indicated it would, but the heavily favored champion eventually exposed huge underdog Steve Geffrard on Saturday night.

Smith stopped Geffrard early in the ninth round of a scheduled 12-round, 175-pound championship match ESPN aired from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The WBO light heavyweight champion sent a fast-fading Geffrard to the canvas 25 seconds into the ninth round, which led Geffrard’s trainer, Kevin Cunningham, to request a stoppage.

Referee Mark Nelson halted the action 37 seconds into the ninth round. The 32-year-old Smith (28-3, 22 KOs), of Mastic, New York, made the first defense of the WBO light heavyweight title he won nine months ago by edging Maxim Vlasov and ended Geffrard’s 18-fight winning streak.

“He really brought it today,” Smith said of Geffrard, who fought Smith on very short notice. “It was a great fight. As you can see, he’s a great boxer, a good survivor. I was trying to get him out of there early, but I realized he was very tough and I wasn’t gonna be able to do that. I tried to wait until the later rounds and started throwing more combinations to pick him apart.”

Geffrard (18-3, 12 KOs) lost his first two pro bouts, which prompted Golden Boy Promotions and manager Shelly Finkel to part ways with an accomplished amateur who won numerous national tournaments as a heavyweight.

The 31-year-old Geffrard, a previously unknown underdog from Boca Raton, Florida, took this fight with Smith on only eight days’ notice. He replaced hard-hitting Brit Callum Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs), who withdrew from the fight last week after contracting COVID-19.

Geffrard took a steep step up in competition against Smith, despite that he had sparred against unbeaten IBF/WBC light heavyweight champ Artur Beterbiev and former 175-pound champions Sergey Kovalev, Eleider Alvarez and Glen Johnson. He showed some skill versus a heavier-handed opponent, but ultimately he wasn’t able to deal with Smith’s pressure.

Smith unloaded a barrage of punches on Geffrard as soon as the ninth round began. Though he didn’t take many flush punches during that sequence, a mentally and physically fatigued Geffrard went down to one knee in a neutral corner.

He didn’t attempt to get up as Nelson’s count moved toward 10. It wouldn’t have mattered, as Cunningham instructed a New York State Athletic Commission inspector to stop the bout.

Geffrard landed a right hand barely a minute into the eighth round. Smith connected with two left hooks that made Geffrard retreat with just under 40 seconds remaining in the eighth round.

Smith caught Geffrard with a right uppercut 20 seconds into the seventh round. Smith later drilled with right hand, which landed flush with about 45 seconds to go in the seventh round.

They traded right uppercuts with a few seconds to go in the seventh round.

Geffrard landed a left-right combination with about a minute to go in the sixth round. Nelson warned Smith for landing a low left hand with just under 30 seconds on the clock in the sixth round.

Smith landed two hard body shots on Geffrard about a minute into the fifth round. Geffrard caught Smith with several shots just before and after the midway mark of the fifth round.

A right hand by Smith appeared to buzz Geffrard with just over 40 seconds on the clock in the fifth round. Smith sensed Geffrard was hurt and went after him. Geffrard held and moved his way toward surviving those troublesome moments.

Geffrard snuck a left hook around Smith’s guard just after the midway mark of the fourth round. Smith unloaded a barrage of punches on Geffrard with about 40 seconds to go in the fourth round.

Geffrard opened his arms wide to indicate Smith didn’t hurt him with any of those punches.

Barely 50 seconds into the third round, Smith drilled Geffrard with a right hand that got his attention. Geffrard landed a right to Smith’s body and then a jab with just under 30 seconds to go in the third round.

Smith had trouble penetrating Geffrard’s defense for much of the second round. Geffrard let his hands go in the final minute of the second round, including a left hook that connected toward the end of it.

Smith tested Geffrard right away, as it appeared Geffrard was nervous once the opening bell rang. A left hook by Geffrard made Smith reset his feet with just under a minute to go in the first round.

A looping right hand by Smith snuck around Geffrard’s guard with about 20 seconds on the clock in the opening round. Mostly, though, Geffrard protected himself well in the first three minutes of their fight.

Smith was supposed to make an optional title defense against Johnson, who substituted for Umar Salamov. Russia’s Salamov (26-2, 19 KOs) was scheduled to challenge Smith on October 30 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York, but Smith contracted COVID-19 in mid-September.

Smith spent two nights in a hospital and battled the coronavirus for approximately three weeks altogether. He couldn’t reschedule his fight with Salamov because Salamov wasn’t able to get a visa to travel to the United States.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.