Another training camp won't go to waste for Joe Smith Jr.
Steve Geffrard agreed Friday to replace Callum Johnson as Smith’s opponent January 15 in a main event ESPN will televise from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs) is unknown and unproven at the championship level, but the 31-year-old Miami native is in shape because he was scheduled to fight Argentina’s Gonzalo Andreasen (7-8, 6 KOs, 1 NC) in an eight-rounder Saturday night in Delray Beach, Florida.
Unlike several other potential replacements matchmakers for Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. contacted, Geffrard was willing to take a very difficult fight against the WBO light heavyweight champion for a reasonable purse and on eight days’ notice. Geffrard is not ranked in the top 15 by the WBO, a requirement for eligibility for a title shot, but Smith-Geffrard is expected to be sanctioned as a WBO championship match.
England’s Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) is a big puncher who would’ve been more dangerous for Smith (27-3, 21 KOs), but the 36-year-old contender tested positive for COVID-19 this week and withdrew Thursday from their 12-round fight.
Johnson replaced Russia’s Umar Salamov as Smith’s opponent in mid-November because Salamov couldn’t obtain a visa to travel to the United States to challenge Smith on January 15. Salamov (26-2, 19 KOs) instead dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) on December 11 in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Geffrard, meanwhile, will take an 18-fight winning streak into his fight with Smith.
He hasn’t lost since Travis Reeves (then 0-1-1) beat him by split decision in their four-rounder in June 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. In his previous bout, Kentrell Claiborne (then 2-6) stopped Geffrard in the third round of Geffrard’s pro debut in February 2013 in Detroit.
The 32-year-old Smith will make the first defense of the WBO 175-pound championship he won in his last fight – a 12-round, majority-decision victory over Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (46-4, 26 KOs) on April 10 at Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Smith was supposed to face Salamov on October 30 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York, but Smith contracted COVID-19 in mid-September.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.