WBO light heavyweight titlist, Joe Smith, finds himself in a familiar spot as he takes on WBC/IBF champion, Artur Beterbiev, this Saturday night at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square in New York.
Once again, he is the long shot.
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) has held steady as a 5-to-1 'dog versus the hard-hitting Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs).
"I'm always the underdog," Smith told SNAC.com. "No matter what, every fight I step into I look at it the same way. Every fight that guys in there to take everything from me and hurt me. So I've got to give it 110-percent every time I'm in training."
You'd be hard pressed to find another current boxer who has pulled as many upsets as Smith has in recent years. Back in 2016 he rose to prominence as he shocked Andreza Fonfara in one round.
He followed that up by sending Bernard Hopkins out of the ring -- and into retirement -- in what was a Cinderella year for 'the Common Man', who became a legitimate contender at 175. His momentum was halted as he suffered a broken jaw early on versus Sullivan Barrera in his next outing and lost a clear 10 round decision.
In recent years he has faced Jesse Hart (W10), WBA champion, Dmitry Bivol (L12) and. Eleider Alvarez (TKO9). Then he defeated Maxim Vlasov over 12 rounds to win the WBO belt, and in his most recent outing scored a 9th round stoppage of late replacement, Steve Geffrard.
If you look at the totality of his resume', you could make a strong argument that the blue-collar banger from Long Island is the most seasoned and tested light heavyweight in the world.
"He's not awed by the moment," said Joe Deguardia, the head of Star Boxing, which has promoted Smith from the beginning of his career. "Being an underdog for most of his big fights have shaped him in a certain way. He almost relishes that he's going in and people don't think he's going to win. You look at the odds, it's almost like, 'OK, I'm going to go and prove them wrong again.'"
While many are going with the chalk and tabbing Beterbiev, the consensus is that Smith has a punchers chance. While Beterbiev is certainly a wrecking ball, he's also hit the canvas early in fights versus Jeff Page Jr. and Callum Johnson.
Smith chuckled a bit when he stated that he would be more than willing to stand and trade with Beterbiev, but he did point out, ''he's been down before, I haven't."
The question is, will Smith actually try and fight fire with fire, and chin check Beterbiev in the opening rounds?
Should he pull the upset, Smith will have three belts around his waist, with the other champion being Bivol, who defeated him in 2019. While Bivol won convincingly on the scorecards, he was buzzed by an overhand right late in round 10 of that contest that had him wobbling back to his corner.
Smith says of that bout, "I learned a lot, I needed that experience, to go through what I did in that fight, to learn and get back in the gym and focus on what I needed to work on. I feel it made me a better fighter."
Back in early May, Bivol scored an eye-opening victory over Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. The results didn't surprise him.
"That was a great fight, he put on a great performance," Smith stated. "I kind of seen the fight going that way just because of their styles, and being that I was in there with him before."
There is no doubt who Smith is targeting should he get past Beterbiev.
"Bivol is the only guy to truly beat me, I feel. So I want to redeem myself with that."
There's no denying that this is a big fight for Star Boxing. But it's not like they haven't had boxers in the past who came up big similar situations.
"Certainly when (Antonio) Tarver fought Roy Jones, the first and more importantly the second fight, it was thrilling and it was very big money-wise," said Deguardia. "This particular one, it ranks high emotionally. (Smith) brings out the fan in me, and it's hard to get that when you've been through thousands of fights."
Yes, boxing is a cut-throat business, but at times, it is a sport, even to those who have a vested financial interest.
"For some reason, Joe brings out that kind of fan in me. He makes it exciting for me," continued Deguardia. "He brings out the emotion -- and it's a good thing."
BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS
Top Rank and ESPN have produced a two-part series leading into Beterbiev-Smith:
Mario Lopez and I have plenty of boxing to talk about on this weeks edition of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller, and we preview Beterbiev-Smith:
Bruce Carrington, the talented featherweight hopeful from Brooklyn, is on the Beterbiev-Smith undercard...Top Rank has announced that a pivotal featherweight clash between Joet Gonzalez and Isaac Dogboe(ranked number one and two by the WBC) has been scheduled for July 23 in Hinckley, Minnesota on ESPN+....Former unified heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, has signed a new partnership with DAZN....Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano will co-headline a Showtime PPV card on August 6 at MSG....Thompson Boxing has a show on Friday night from the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, CA, that features Saul Sanchez....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org