Did you ever play Dungeons and Dragons as a kid? For the sake of your future sex life, please don’t answer out loud if you did. If not, try and picture the 10-sided dice used by those nerds. Now, on each face of the die, write a short description of every conceivable outcome you could have in a boxing match. Knockout, split decision, diarrhea-induced TKO, fan man, etc. Now give that pentagonal trapezohedron a roll and you’ve created a reasonable facsimile of the feeling one gets moments before Joe Smith Jr. steps into the ring.
When the Long Island native straps on a pair of gloves, any-god-damn-thing is possible. He could blitz you in one brutal round as he did to Andrjez Fonfara back in 2016. He could lose every second of every round as he did to Dmitry Bivol just last year. Hell, maybe he decides to knock a living legend through the fucking ropes and end his Hall of Fame career as he did to Bernard Hopkins in December of 2016. It’s all on the table and it’s what makes Smith appointment viewing.
Coming into his ESPN+ televised fight on Saturday, Smith was a betting underdog against Eleider Alvarez. How one goes about creating a betting line for a Smith fight is anybody’s fucking guess and it almost certainly violates our nation’s laws against sorcery.
Alvarez has a number of big-name scalps on his resume (Sergey Kovalev, Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute) and is mostly regarded as a world-class fighter. Inconsistency and questionable effort levels have marred recent outings, but at his best, Alvarez is capable of giving anyone fits.
From the opening bell, Smith displayed a newly-discovered competency level for his craft. While not exactly a face-first banger in the traditional sense, many of Smith’s past performances could accurately be described as robotic. Against Alvarez, however, Smith worked his way in with his jab and found new angles from which to land his vaunted right hand.
As the rounds ticked by, Smith winning nearly all of them, the question of whether or not he could keep this up was being answered with each ding of the bell. Even Smith’s tendency to telegraph his punches so badly you can see them coming from the International Space Station didn’t seem to be hampering his performance one bit.
Alvarez looked to be in serious trouble and began looking for something, anything, to turn the fight in his favor or, at the very least, buy himself some time. In round 7 he found it.
A booming, short right hand on the inside buckled Smith’s knees and sent him reeling. Normally you have to go to one of Kid Rock’s bachelor parties to see someone with shitty tribal tattoos drunkenly stumbling around like that. It looked to be a turning moment in the fight until Smith decided that the laws of physics don’t apply to him. The cobwebs cleared and he somehow not only survived but likely won the rest of the round. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
In round 9, Smith did what he does. In the opening seconds of the round, he clipped Alvarez with a straight right over the top and punctuated the exchange with a nasty jab to send him down and through the ring ropes. I don’t know what it is about Smith and knocking dudes through the god damn ropes but I guess we all have our fetishes.
Alvarez was unable to continue and it officially goes in the books as a TKO for Smith at the 26-second mark of round 9.
This was an eliminator for some dumbshit title or another but if the particulars of that garbage are of interest to you, well, thanks for reading this from your court-ordered therapist’s office.
Regardless of which sanctioning body decides to dip their ghoulish fingers into his bank account, Joe Smith Jr. is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today. A championship belt will do nothing to enhance or diminish that standing.
Simply put, when Smith’s name is on the docket, clear your schedule. You might see some fireworks or you might see the wick malfunction and blow the entire launching mechanism to high hell.
One thing is for sure, you won’t be bored.
(Photo by Mikey Williams for Top Rank)