Joe Smith Jr. feels his most recent win was the performance that finally began changing the opinions of his detractors.
They took notice, Smith sensed, because he defeated Eleider Alvarez not only by eventually overpowering the former WBO light heavyweight champ, but by out-boxing the Colombian veteran. The hard-hitting Long Island native was way ahead on all three scorecards when he knocked out Alvarez in the ninth round August 22 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
By then, judges Julie Lederman (79-73), Dave Moretti (80-72) and Patricia Morse Jarman (79-73) thought Smith had thoroughly out-classed Alvarez. CompuBox credited Smith with landing 54 more punches and throwing 194 more punches than Alvarez (135-of-497 to 81-of-303) by the time Smith rocked Alvarez with a right hand and followed up with a left that sent an off-balance Alvarez through the two bottom ropes, onto the ring apron.
“Most people are seeing that I do have good boxing ability,” Smith told BoxingScene.com, “and I’m not just a one-punch, lucky-punch guy.”
That impressive victory over Alvarez (25-2, 13 KOs) ranked right up there for the 31-year-old Smith with his career-changing, eighth-round knockout of the legendary Bernard Hopkins in December 2017. Hopkins was 51 when Smith beat him, though, 15 years older than Alvarez was when Smith stopped him.
“The fight went the way that it did because I was just pushing myself every round, not giving him a chance to do anything,” Smith said. “I think that’s what made the fight I wouldn’t say easy, but it was a good one for me.”
Smith also became the first fighter to knock out Alvarez in their WBO 175-pound championship elimination match. Smith (26-3, 21 KOs), of Mastic, New York, will encounter Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) on April 10 for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title.
“It was a big fight for me because I needed to get in there and get that win, so I could get to a title shot,” Smith said. “In that sense, it was a huge victory. On top of that, he was previously a world champion, not long ago, so that was a big thing. I just wanna get in there with the best and fight the best, and that’s kinda what I’ve been doing.”
Smith and Vlasov were scheduled to fight February 13 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, but their 12-round, 175-pound title fight was postponed February 11, the day before they were supposed to weigh in, because Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.