For a boxer that has gone through the rigors of a long training camp. There is only one thing worse than losing the fight.
Not fighting, at all.
Which is what WBO light heavyweight titlist, Joe Smith, was facing last week as it was announced that Callum Johnson had tested positive for Covid and had to be pulled from this bout, which was to set headline ESPN's first broadcast of 2022 from the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York.
But eventually the relatively unknown Steve Geffrard agreed to step in at the 11th-and-a-half hour. For Smith, who last year had his fight versus Maxim Vlasov delayed by two months, there was a particular emotion.
Mikey Williams and Top Rank
"I'm very relieved, my team did a great job in making this happen," he told SNAC.com on Monday. As you speak to Smith, there actually seem to be some giddiness in his voice. "Joe Deguardia and my trainer, they were up all nights, calling potential opponent after potential opponent. I know they did a lot of work to make this happen, I'm grateful for it."
Last week, Top Rank made the formal announcement regarding Johnson's status. By that juncture steps were taken to find a suitable replacement. Smith recalled, "My trainer found out like a day or two before me but he didn't want to tell me. They just got to work on finding somebody else before they released the news to me."
Deguardia, the head of Star Boxing (the lead promoter for Smith) took the bull by the horns to salvage Smith's date. He admitted that this was not an easy process. The prospects of having to reschedule this date crossed his mind.
"But my thought process was that no matter what -- I'm going to do whatever I had to do to find somebody," said Deguardia, who in the middle of last week had actually sent out contracts to one boxer who upon initially agreeing to face Smith, then slept on it and then promptly changed his mind.
Into the breach stepped, Geffrard, who was actually training for a bout on a club show in Delray Beach, Florida for this past weekend.
"He's got the chance of a lifetime to fight for the championship of the world. For us, we were able to get somebody who was in shape and ready to go," said Deguardia, who says that in situations like this, financial terms and other considerations are discussed at length.
"We're very fortunate that (Geffrard) had a good team around him, a good group of people around him, and we we're able to speak to everybody who worked hard to make this happen," continued Deguardia. "When you have people that are reasonable, you're going to make things happen. That's what happened here."
For Smith, it wasn't just who he was fighting, but making sure the labor put in the past few months wasn't wasted.
"Especially with the way things are now because I made a lot of sacrifices during this camp," Smith explained. "I skipped Christmas, I skipped New Years, it was just me and my wife at home every day. I mean, we're afraid to go out food shopping because of Covid. We don't want to be around anybody
"We made a lot of sacrifices to just be by ourselves. Even when I go to the gym, there's nobody there. IT's jut me, my trainer, that's it. The same with sparring partners. I had two my whole camp. We Covid tested then here and there just to make sure everything was good."
Also, what fighters and trainers will tell you is that these postponements and rescheduled dates force fighters into physically peaking twice (and the accompanying weight cut) in a relative short period of time. Last year, Smith struggled mightily to defeat Maxim Vlasov, after a dominant performance versus Eleider Alvarez.
Mikey Williams and Top Rank
"It was a tough time," he admitted. "It changes your whole routine and it messes everything up. That's why you have to be careful not to overdo anything, and make sure you're ready. But also in that fight, I was getting married. So there was a lot of stress involved."
To a certain degree, Smith isn't just facing Geffrard, but against himself, and improve upon his effort back in April. "I'm just focused on what I've got to do. It's a different opponent but I'm still me, and I've just got to do what I do best."
As Caleb Plant proved, belts matter. And with his WBO strap, he is in position to land a lucrative bout later this year.
"If I had to choose, I would love to fight Canelo (Alvarez) on Cinco de Mayo," said Smith, "and then unify against (Artur) Beterbiev, and then fight Bivol for all the belts."
More on this later, but the New York Post reports that Terence Crawford is suing his former promoter, Top Rank, for 'extreme racial bias' that hurt his career. He is suing for nearly $10 million... Eddie Hearn announced that with Jessie Vargas has tested positive for Covid and that the February 5 bout with Liam Smith will be back up a bit....The co-feature this weekend is a featherweight contest between Abraham Nova and William Encarnacion. Also prospects Omar Rosario, Jahi Tucker and Troy Isley will be featured on this bill....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....