The word underdog and Joe Smith Jr. seem to be synonymous. When WBO Light Heavyweight World Champion JOE SMITH JR. (28-3 22KO’s) steps in the ring for the biggest fight of his life on Saturday, June 18, he will be facing a boxing thoroughbred and brutal Russian powerhouse, in the WBC and IBF World Champion, ARTUR BETERBIEV (17-0 17KO’s). When Vegas oddsmakers opened its books upon the fight’s announcement, Smith in spite of being a world champion, with tremendous credentials himself, was once again listed as an underdog (a huge 8 to 1 underdog)! For non-gamblers, this means, with the spread, if you were to bet $100 dollars on a Smith victory on June 18, you would win $800.
This is not the first, nor the second, third or even fourth time Joe Smith Jr. finds himself as the underdog in a major fight. Back on June 18, 2016, on a magical night in Chicago, IL as a relative unknown, Smith burst onto the boxing scene with a spectacular, nationally televised first round knockout of then #2 world ranked light heavyweight, ANDRZEJ FONFARA. Entering the fight, Smith was a 20 to 1 long shot to beat hometown favorite Fonfara, yet Smith beat the odds emphatically (KO-1). Yes, for those of you that are superstitious, Smith burst on the scene as a 20-1 underdog exactly 6 years to the date that he will be fighting Artur Beterbiev, on the magical date of June 18th.
Next Smith was handpicked by boxing legend and multi-time world champion, BERNARD HOPKINS for the final fight of his illustrious career in Los Angeles, CA. The final fight became a nightmare instead of a dream farewell for the legend when Smith landed a six-punch combination that dramatically put Hopkins out on his feet, sending him through the ropes, and onto The Forum floor for an 8th-round KO victory. Entering the fight, Smith was also an 8 to 1 underdog, yet not only did he beat Hopkins, but Smith beat the oddsmakers once again.
Over the next two years, Smith battled like a warrior for most of the ten rounds with a broken jaw against Sullivan Barrera, then picked up a comeback win against Melvin Russell in his next bout and ultimately fought Dmitry Bivol in his first world title challenge. A tenth-round overhand bomb by Smith had Bivol wobbling back to his corner, but he was saved by the bell. Bivol defended his title, and Smith went back to the drawing board.
“The Common Man” would not be deterred and with a renewed vigor, experience and determination, found himself on the main stage for a light heavyweight showdown with JESSE HART on ESPN. Smith was a 3 to 1 underdog against Hart, who was being touted as a major player at 175 lbs. Instead, Smith imposed his will and strength on Hart, battering and eventually dropping Hart in the seventh round in a dominating and impressive performance. Smith yet again beat the odds.
With that victory, Star Boxing proudly entered Smith into a WBO Light Heavyweight Title elimination bout where he clashed with former world champion ELEIDER ALVAREZ at the MGM Grand Bubble, in Las Vegas. Smith put on a show that caught the attention of the boxing world. Landing 125 of his 369 punches thrown as opposed to Alvarez who landed just 51 of 125 punches thrown, Smith thoroughly dominated the former world champion in a career defining performance. It was clear Smith had advanced tremendously since the Bivol loss. He launched Alvarez through the ropes courtesy of a brutal right hand which earned him a ninth-round KO and a second world title shot. Yes, Smith was 3 to 1 underdog for the Alvarez fight, yet he beat Alvarez, and, once again, the oddsmakers.
Smith went on to win the WBO Light Heavyweight World Title in an absolute war over MAXIM VLASOV in Tulsa, OK in April of 2021, and successfully defended his title against late replacement STEVE GEFFRARD at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY in January of 2022, both of which were broadcast live on ESPN.
Now, on June 18th, Smith embarks on yet another challenge in the three-belt world title unification bout in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden live on ESPN. He finds himself once again as the underdog. Beterbiev has earned the name “The King,” for being the only professional boxing champion with a perfect KO ratio of 17 wins, with 17 knockouts. He is regarded as the most dangerous fighter in the world.
Most would feel the weight of the world on their shoulder having to constantly carry the ‘prove them wrong mentality’ but for Smith, it makes him who he is, “I enjoy being the underdog.” He said. “I would rather be the underdog because it makes me want to push harder, makes me want to prove everyone wrong.”
While Beterbiev’s reputation may very well proceed him, “The Common Man” Joe Smith Jr. has beat the odds before and will look to do so once more – this time by slaying “The King” for light heavyweight supremacy.
Beterbiev-Smith is promoted by Top Rank and Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and will take place Saturday, June 18, 2022 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden live on ESPN, ESPN + and ESPN DEPORTES.