Joe Smith Jr spoiled the party tonight in Inglewood, California.
The Irish-American light heavyweight was brought in as the opponent for Bernard Hopkins’s ‘Final 1’ at The Forum, and knocked out the future Hall of Famer in the eighth round in somewhat bizarre circumstances. The New Yorker sent Hopkins sprawling out of the ring and ‘The Executioner’ did not make the mandatory twenty-count.
The Irish Bomber began brightly, steamrolling the opening two rounds before the crafty veteran gained a foothold and began to time Smith well. However, as the bout entered its second half, Smith began to come on strong, and in the eighth round he would become the first ever man to stop Hopkins.
The 27 year old landed a barrage of clean hooks that left Hopkins, 52 next month, slumped on the ropes before a final left hook sent the Philadelphia fighter flying out of the ring. Hopkins, who suffered an ankle injury in the fall, made no attempt to re-enter the ring and was counted out, claiming that it was a push which sent him down.
It’s a second shock win of 2016 for Smith, although perhaps not as surprising as his first round blow-out of Andrzej Fonfara, and he now moves to 23(19)-1(1). Hopkins ends his career at 55(32)-8(1)-1.
Smith retains his WBC International title following the win, and an Irish-American showdown with Seanie Monaghan was mooted in the aftermath.
Joe O’Neill and Gavan Casey look ahead to 2017 in episode 1 of The Irish Boxing Show