Joe Smith Jr. and light heavyweights in 2022

Joe Smith Jr. expectedly took care of business against Steve Geffrard. Can he become a unified champion? We take a close look at light heavyweights.

To one’s surprise, WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. made easy work of late replacement Steve Geffrard on Saturday, Jan. 15. Smith’s power and endurance wore Geffrard down over nine rounds, but how would he fair against his fellow champions?

Smith won the WBO title in a messy majority decision over Maxim Vlasov in April 2021. His win over Geffrard marked the first defense of his title, but there are two other titleholders in the division.

Artur Beterbiev holds the WBC and IBF belts, while Dmitry Bivol is the WBA champion. Both Beterbiev and Bivol are undefeated, and Smith does have three losses on his record, including a one-sided loss to Bivol.

Beterbiev is the only unified champion of the three, but the division is open for the taking. Smith is used to being an underdog, and he would likely play that role against either Bivol or Beterbiev. However, Smith possesses several qualities that make him a danger.

Smith showed against Geffrard that he’s not a one-handed fighter. His left hook to the head and body was surgical against Geffrard. Smith did an excellent job of working combinations with a multitude of punches. He can hook, throw straight, and find the uppercut when fighting inside.

Joe Smith Jr., Dmitry Bivol, Artur Beterbiev, Joshua Buatsi, Gilberto Ramirez, and potentially Canelo Alvarez could mean big things for the light heavyweight division in 2022


Also, Smith has an abundance of endurance. Even after getting over COVID, Smith threw 665 punches over nine rounds, according to CompuBox, a very high number. He’s more of a volume puncher than his fellow division champions.

Though, his weaknesses are still present.

Smith isn’t the most gifted fighter with his feet. He has solid fundamentals but lacks foot speed and mobility, and opponents can hit him. Smith fights very tall and lacks head movement to avoid punches. Putting it simply, Smith’s best defense is his offense.

Smith couldn’t employ that strategy against Bivol in 2019. CompuBox shows that he only threw 395 punches against Bivol and connected on a dreadful nine percent of his shots. Comparing that loss to his win over Geffrard, it looks like Smith can’t get off when fighting a more skilled opponent.

Beterbiev has the best KO rating out of the three with a perfect 100 percent, but he’s also open to being hit. He’s so aggressive and confident with his power that he also risks leaving his chin open. Bivol is the most polished boxer of the group but lacks the power of Smith and Beterbiev.

If you could get these three to fight each other, you might have a nice little three-man tournament to crown an undisputed champion. Then again, Canelo Alvarez could change that perception.

Alvarez is the undisputed super middleweight champ, but he’s still planning his next move. If he opts to take over the light heavyweight division, he would become the frontrunner. Also, all three would love to fight him because he signifies the most lucrative payday as boxing’s biggest attraction.

As of right now, the only other fighters in the division that could compete with this crop of elite light heavyweights are former champion Gilberto Ramirez and Joshua Buatsi. The talent field drops off after them.

These boxers have more size than Alvarez, but Alvarez is used to stopping bigger opponents. He spars heavyweight Frank Sanchez regularly. These six names could put the light heavyweight division on the map in 2022 if competitive matchups against each other can be made.

Light heavyweight isn’t the sexiest division, but aggressive matchmaking could make it a breakthrough year for the division.

 

Source: FanSided

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