Less than two weeks ago, Joe Smith Jr. was set to defend his light heavyweight title against Callum Johnson, a tough and powerful foe who could provide a difficult fight for Smith. Less than two weeks ago, Geffrard was sitting in a sauna, preparing to weigh in for a small club show in Florida. But then Johnson tested positive for Covid, and now, it’s Geffrard’s unlikely opportunity to have a chance at a world title. Here’s everything you need to know about Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard, including the odds, their records and a prediction on who will win.
Geffrard originally was set to fight this month in an eight-round bout when his team got the call to fight Smith soon after Johnson had to pull out. Apparently at least a dozen other fighters had said no to becoming a late replacement for Johnson, either saying they weren’t in shape or that they needed more time to prepare for such a devastating puncher in Smith. But Geffrard embraced the unexpected opportunity.
He went from fighting at a tiny show against a no-name opponent to facing a 175-pound world titlist on ESPN.
“I’m a fighter, especially with an opportunity like this,” he said this week. “I’m going to rise to the occasion. I’ll show the world who Steve Geffrard is.
“I was in the sauna when I got the call for this fight. I was looking forward to Smith vs. Johnson, but now I’m the one fighting for the title. It’s surreal.”
Naturally, Geffrard is a big underdog. And it’s not too often that Smith has been the betting favorite before a fight. Especially when he was facing well-known fighters like Andrzej Fonfara, Bernard Hopkins, Dmitry Bivol and Sullivan Barrera.
“I still look at myself as an underdog until I beat everybody,” Smith told me a few weeks ago. “I want to get the fight with [fellow light heavyweight titlist Artur] Beterbiev and with Bivol again to show I am now the best.”
As for his new opponent?
“Since I became a world champion, the only thing that has really changed for me is that I’m holding this title, and I want to keep it that way,” Smith said.
Here’s more info on the Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard showdown that U.S. viewers can watch on ESPN and ESPN+ beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard odds
Before Johnson dropped out of the fight, Smith was a solid -350 favorite. Against Geffrard, those odds have widened significantly. As of late Friday, Smith was -1400 (bet $1,400 to win $100), while Geffrard was +650 (earn $650 on a $100 wager). Neither money line is worth betting (if you could find Geffrard for something like +1000, maybe you could talk yourself into taking a flyer on him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother).
If you want to put your money on Smith, it’s probably better to try to pick when he’ll score a stoppage. He’s -500 to win by KO/TKO. That’s not much of a value either, so maybe go for the KO/TKO in rounds 1-6 at +105 or, if you’re feeling even more confident, bet the KO/TKO in rounds 4-6 at +210 (maybe even try KO/TKO in rounds 1-3 at +333). Me? I’d probably go rounds 1-6 for the Smith KO.
Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard records
Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) has been near the top of the light heavyweight rankings for the past six years, ever since shockingly knocking out Fonfara in the first round. Since then, he’s retired Hopkins, lost to Bivol and Barrera, and then rebounded by reeling off three-straight solid victories (Eleider Alvarez, Jesse Hart and Maxim Vlasov). It took Smith 12 years to finally win a world title. He won’t give it up without a fight.
The 31-year-old Geffrard really is coming out of nowhere for this bout. He’s 18-2 with 12 knockouts, but since losing the first two bouts of his pro career, he’s on an 18-fight winning streak. Remember, though, he’s feasted on sub-par opposition, including an opponent with a 11-50-2 record just four fights ago. He also didn’t fight for three years from 2018-21, so it’s difficult to imagine he has what it takes to pull off this upset.
Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard prediction
I would have picked Smith to knock out Johnson. It’s hard to gauge just how good Geffrard is, because he’s never competed at anything close to a world-class level as a pro. But I’m having a hard time imagining him staying competitive with Smith for more than a few rounds at most. Say, Smith by KO in the fifth round.
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