Steve Geffrard suspected that his boxing career was over after a treacherous three-month stretch in 2013.

He had influential representation – Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and manager Shelly Finkel – behind him. The Boca Raton, Florida, native had an impressive amateur resume, too, approximately 150 fights and had won numerous prominent national tournaments in the heavyweight division.

But Geffrard, then 22, lost his first two professional fights.

Kentrall Claiborne, who entered their bout with a 2-6 record, stopped Geffrard in the third round of his pro debut, a cruiserweight fight that ended prematurely due to a grotesque gash on Geffrard’s forehead in February 2013. In his subsequent bout, Travis Reeves, who was 0-1-1, defeated Geffrard by split decision in four-rounder 3½ months later.

Golden Boy and Finkel terminated their partnerships with the once-promising prospect. Geffrard understandably believed he’d have to make use of his business administration degree from Nova Southeastern University and do something else for a living.

That’s when the late Bob Pergament, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who became Geffrard’s longtime manager, helped save his career. The 31-year-old Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs), who hasn’t lost since suffering those two defeats, will challenge WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) on Saturday night in a main event ESPN will televise from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York (10 p.m. ET).

“It was tough to come from the amateurs and have that big of a background, and then to start off like that,” Geffrard told “It was insane. I actually had no clue where I was gonna go from there because my management at the time had dropped me. Golden Boy as well dropped me because I was 0-2, so I had no idea what was gonna happen. I really didn’t know how I was gonna get fights. You know, when I was 0-2, everybody was probably like, ‘Man, this kid’s done.’ But I was in the gym sparring Glen Johnson one day and this guy, he was actually from New York, his name is Robert Pergament. Rest in peace. He passed away [in July 2019].

“But he used to own these [specialty] stores, Pergament [Home Centers]. He saw me sparring Glen and he was like, ‘Oh, who is that guy?’ He signed me when I was 0-2, and he helped me rebuild my career. He passed away, but all he’s ever wanted was a champion someday. Obviously, he’s not here to see me fight for a world title, but you know, if it wasn’t for him, I don’t even know if I’d be boxing. I have an education, so I’d probably be doing something else. You and I, we all know having a start like that, that’s a real career-ender, you know?”

Geffrard sat in a sauna in Delray Beach last Friday, trying to shed the remaining pounds prior to a weigh-in for an eight-round, 177-pound fight scheduled for Saturday night against Argentinean journeyman Gonzalo Andreasen (7-8, 6 KOs, 1 NC).

His trainer, Kevin Cunningham, called to present him with an unexpected opportunity to replace Callum Johnson, Smith’s original opponent, on eight days’ notice because England’s Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) contracted COVID-19. Geffrard called his close friend, junior middleweight contender Erickson Lubin, for advice before he quickly got back to Cunningham and accepted promoter Top Rank’s offer for by far the biggest fight of his career.

“It’s crazy, but it’s God’s plan,” Geffrard said. “I’m definitely gonna rise to the occasion and do what I need to do to take home that title Saturday.”

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