Joe Smith Jr. nearly knocked former titleholder Eleider Alvarez out of the ring in the ninth round on Saturday. Twenty seconds into the ninth round, Smith Jr. stunned Alvarez with a right hand before following up with a left hand that ended the fight.
“Coming into this camp, I knew I had to work on my boxing. I wanted to be sharp, throw a lot of straight punches,” Smith Jr. said.
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“I watched his fight with [Sergey] Kovalev, and Kovalev kind of set the way to beat him. So we watched that and worked off of it. I knew coming in today I had to box a little more because he’s got that great right hand. He caught me with it a couple times, but I can take a punch, too,” he continued.
Smith Jr.’s knockout victory puts him into the second tier of light heavyweights looking for a title shot against either Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev. Bivol defeated Smith Jr. last year, but an impressive knockout win could put him in play for a possible rematch.