Joe Smith Jr [23(19)-1(1)] knew that he had to win his fight last night with Bernard Hopkins.
While it was the ‘Final 1’ for Hopkins, and was perhaps against an unnecessarily dangerous foe, the bout could also be considered high-risk for 27 year old Smith. While he was an underdog, losing to the veteran could have marked the end of Smith’s brief time at the upper echelons of the light heavyweight division.
The hungry Irish-American however ensured that he upset the party and forced an eighth round stoppage, sending ‘The Executioner’ through the ropes following a barrage of heavy hooks to further bolster his reputation in the sport,
Speaking afterwards, Smith described how “it feels great, it’s the best feeling in the world to accomplish something I set out for and wanted to do.”
“I had seen him every time I threw the right hand, he was throwing the left. I had seen him fall, and I kept hitting him until I saw him go out, and I landed that left hook until he went out. I knew he had time to go out, but I hit him with four or five clean shots and they were good shots on the button.”
The Long Islander acknowledged the enormity of the win, as well as the understated pressure that came with fighting a man who turns 52 next month. Smith described how “I came here to do my job, and this is my coming out party too. I had to finish him, it was either my career was going to end and his was going to end, but I needed mine to continue. I’m going to get back in the gym and train hard for my next opponent. I’m up for anything.
Smith also paid tribute to legendary foe, whom he requested an autographed glove from afterwards, and admitted that “I have lots of respect for Bernard. He is a true champion. Lots of people love Bernard and still will because he’s a true champion. I knew he was a true champion, and if he didn’t get injured he’d be back here.”
Joe O’Neill and Gavan Casey look ahead to 2017 in episode 1 of The Irish Boxing Show