Joe Smith Jr was supposed to be defending his WBO Light heavyweight world title versus Englands Callum Johnson but the aforementioned Johnson tested positive for Covid. Instead of rescheduling the fight Top Rank, the promoters for this event, went in search of a replacement opponent on less than three week’s notice. Most of the fighters they contacted couldn’t make the weight in time or didn’t want to risk fighting on such short notice. Geffrard was already pencilled into fight the week before in a stay busy bout so when he got the call to fight for the world title he jumped at the opportunity.
Joe Smith Jr’s rise to an unlikely world title is well documented at this point and he’s a fighter that has fought on the world stage consistently for the last five years. Steve Geffrard on the other hand isn’t very well known at all and has spent the majority of his career fighting on small shows while building a record. Geffrard actually lost his first two professional fights after a good amateur career which set him back massively as no big promoter would invest in him. Long stretches of inactivity in recent years also haven’t helped his pro career though he has gained huge experience through sparring the likes of Sergei Kovalev and Joshua Buatsi to name just a few. While there’s little footage of Geffrard online he seems to be technically well schooled. Due to the level of the opposition in the videos and how long ago they were it’s hard to work out quite how good Geffrard is but I would presume he’s reasonably good as he has been called to spar top pro’s all over the world. A lot of fighters who become sparring partners for more established pro fighters tend to take negative traits into the ring of not letting their hands go but I think Geffrard won’t suffer from that problem. He’s trained by Kevin Cunningham who is a well regarded trainer who’s worked with multiple world champions. I don’t think Cunningham would train Geffrard if he had a sparring partner mentality or wasn’t any good which gives me hope of a good fight come Saturday night. From recent interviews Geffrard also seems to understand that this is an opportunity of a lifetime for him so I expect him to fight to the best of his abilities
Joe Smith Jr will be looking to land the overhand right throughout the fight both behind a double jab and also by itself. Smith has a decent left hook as well but the overhand right is his biggest asset and the one by which he’ll either win or lose the fight by. Smith will push forward as that’s both in his nature and his best style of fighting while Geffrard will likely box from the outside and try to land counter left hooks when Smith attempts to land his overhand rights. I expect a few closish early rounds before Smith’s power shows through when he lands an overhand right and hurts Geffrard. After that it’ll be hard for Geffrard to win rounds as Smith’s punches are more damaging and depending on his chin he could get stopped before the twelve either if Smith lands cleanly or if he gets broken down in the second half of the fight. Another more unlikely option is that Joe Smith Jr walks forward and gets countered by left hooks and kept behind Geffrard’s solid jab for twelve rounds. I could see this happening especially as Smith had a bad case of Covid last year and at the best of times hasn’t dealt with mover’s especially well. Geffrard being a late replacement also play’s to his advantage in some ways as he knows Joe Smith Jr’s style well but Smith will have no idea what Geffrard’s style is and hasn’t had time to switch up game plans. I still think Joe Smith Jr’s power and experience at the championship level will pull him through to a late stoppage or 9-3 decision but the fights an interesting one and Smith is the sort of champion who could be dethroned by any hungry challenger with the right style.