By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Bernard Hopkins called Joe Smith Jr. over for a quick chat three months ago.
The Boxing Writers Association of America’s annual awards dinner in Manhattan marked the first time Hopkins had seen Smith since the heavy-handed light heavyweight contender knocked him clear out of the ring and into retirement December 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
“He said, ‘Come over here. Let me talk to you about pushing me out of the ring,’ ” Smith told BoxingScene.com before an open workout Tuesday in Manhattan. “And then he kinda laughed about it.”
That was the legendary Hopkins’ way of acknowledging Smith’s impressive performance in their HBO main event six months ago.
“I believe he respects me,” said Smith, who’ll face Sullivan Barrera on July 15 at The Forum (HBO). “I feel he didn’t wanna say it out loud. When it first happened, it was a shock to him, I believe. He had no doubt in his mind that he was gonna [win].”
Others, however, haven’t been as quick to respect Smith’s eighth-round knockout victory over Philadelphia’s Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC). The 27-year-old Smith predicted prior to their scheduled 12-round light heavyweight fight that he wouldn’t get much credit for knocking out Hopkins because Hopkins was less than a month away from his 52nd birthday.
“I knew that was gonna happen, that if I stopped him people were gonna say he was old,” Smith said. “But I’m glad I stopped him and didn’t go 12 rounds with him. Because then people would be saying, ‘Oh, he went 12 rounds with an old man.’ That would’ve been even worse.”
Before Smith’s right hand knocked Hopkins through the ropes and onto the floor at The Forum, Hopkins had not been stopped during a Hall-of-Fame career that had spanned 28 years and 66 fights.
“I definitely don’t think I’m getting the credit I deserve,” Smith said. “But there’s a lot of people that are giving me the credit. Either way, it’s fine. I’m just gonna continue my career and continue to prove people wrong.”
The 12-round bout between Smith (23-1, 19 KOs), of Mastic, New York, and Miami’s Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) will be part of an HBO “Boxing After Dark” tripleheader July 15 in Inglewood, California. In the main event, Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) will make the first defense of his WBC super featherweight championship against Tokyo’s Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs), a former WBC champion.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.