Boxing is off to a slow start in 2022 with the schedule not set to pick up steam for a couple weeks. For the fighters who compete in the meantime, it’s an opportunity to fill a void and make statements.

WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe Smith Jr. did the best he could in a bad situation. Forced to face late replacement Steve Geffrard on little more than a week’s notice when Callum Johnson pulled out, Smith went out and did his job.

It wasn’t a fight without intrigue. Geffrard was once a highly touted prospect out of amateurs and boxing can sometimes surprise. Was Geffrard going to come out of nowhere and play spoiler?  A professional for over a decade, would Geffrard be 2022’s first eye opening arrival?

The answer was no. Geffrard showed solid fundamentals, flashes skill, and a desire to finish but he had nothing for the more experienced and stronger titlist. Smith had a chance to show off more aspects of his game, working off the jab, moving at angles, and ultimately drawing the stoppage. It was a steady, controlled outing from a fighter with eyes on bigger prizes.

Will those prizes arrive for Smith this year?   

Futures: The biggest fight Smith could make under the Top Rank/ESPN banner is a unification with unified WBC/IBF and lineal champion Artur Beterbiev. It was talked about last year and should be next for both barring a call from a certain super middleweight king or Beterbiev-Dmitry Bivol emerging first. What else is there to get excited about at light heavyweight? 

Make no mistake: Beterbiev would be favored but if he faced Smith it would be worth getting excited about. Both men punch like hell and both think offense first. It’s good TV and it’s quality matchmaking. Beterbiev-Bivol is the better fight on paper. Beterbiev-Smith is the easier fight to make and might be more fun in the ring.

Cliff’s Notes…

Featherweight Gary Russell is similarly positioned next Saturday with the boxing weekend largely to himself. It will be Russell’s first appearance since 2020 amidst a backdrop of outside the ring struggles…Francisco Rodriguez won over Arnulfo Salvador this weekend and kept himself going at Jr. bantamweight. With everyone else occupied for the moment, wouldn’t a fight with Joshua Franco be a lot of fun?  

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.