At the Forum, California, Hopkins vs Smith Jr was billed as the final outing for one of boxing’s modern greats. And that it (probably) was. But Hopkins’ swan song didn’t pan out quite as planned. The two-weight champion, approaching 52-years-old, suffered his first knockout defeat after being pummelled out of the ring in the 8th round. The upset wasn’t all too shocking, but the finish itself could be a talking point among boxing fans.
Spoiler Joe Smith Jr now climbs to 23 wins, 1 defeat, 19 knockouts, while Hopkins hangs up his gloves with 55 wins, 8 defeats, 2 draws, and 32 knockouts on the slate.
Before the dramatic conclusion, this wasn’t actually a bad fight. Hopkins suffered a notable scare in the opener, but had rallied back nicely despite being stalked Smith, the far stronger, powerful man. It didn’t have the ingredients of a thriller, but the well-seasoned veteran was making his advanced IQ, slippery defense and sharp-shooting punches count. Then – outta nowhere – Hopkins was out of the ring, in a heap on the floor, and soon moaning about foul play and a subsequent injury.
Now, Hopkins can believe whatever he tells himself. But if seeing is believing, then no one should get things twisted and take the victory away from Smith. The video playback revealed Smith landing five full-blooded hooks, with enough power on the final swing to send a hurt, out-muscled Hopkins through the ropes. So all this talk of untoward behaviour – like forearms and pushing from Smith – is just nonsense, and, pretty shameful sportsmanship. Anyway, Hopkins failed to return to the ring in the extended twenty-count (due to a dubious ankle injury), and therefore lost the fight. If you missed Hopkins vs Smith Jr, you really ought to catch HBO’s Video Highlights.
So what does all this mean for the Light Heavyweight scene? Mmm…not too much. On the one hand, it’s kind of significant since it marks the end of an era for a future Hall of Famer. And, luckily for Hopkins, this heavy defeat shouldn’t diminish his legacy one bit. (The guy is almost 52!) As for Smith, it’s difficult to gauge where he stands among today’s 175-pounders. He has crushed Andrzej Fonfara and Hopkins in 2016. Eyebrows are raised, fans know him. But how good is Smith really? The 1st round wipeout of Fonfara could have sorta’ been a fluke. And as for tonight, just how big a deal is it to beat a guy who’s nearly 52, carrying two years of ring rust? Rocky Marciano vs Joe Louis, anyone?
Maybe Smith is the real deal. Maybe he isn’t. There’s guys like Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward at the top of the pile, but Smith could enjoy a far less bumpy ride against the likes of a Nathan Cleverly next. That’s actually not a bad fight, and would give Smith – cue eye roll – a crack at the WBA ‘Regular’ championship. Beyond that, the Light Heavyweight Top 10 is pretty fierce, so a serious gut check for Smith seems unavoidable if big paydays are the goal.
Hopkins vs Smith Jr: Undercard
- Oleksandr Usyk (11-0, 10 KO) beats Thabisco Mchunu (17-3, 11 KO) KO 9; Usyk retains WBO Cruiserweight title
- Yamaguchi Falcao (12-0, 6 KO) beats German Perez (11-3-3, 3 KO) TKO 1; Middleweight
- Jason Quigley (12-0, 10 KO) beats Jorge Melendez (30-7-1, 28 KO) KO 1; Middleweight
- Joseph Diaz (23-0, 13 KO) beats Horacio Garcia (30-2-1, 22 KO) UD 10; Featherweight
- Carlos Morales (15-1-3, 6 KO) beats Charles Huerta (18-5, 11 KO) SD 10; Junior Lightweight
- Joet Gonzalez (15-0, 7 KO) beats Jairo Ochoa (17-11, 9 KO) KO 4; Featherweight
What are your thoughts on the loaded Hopkins vs Smith Jr card? Can Smith go places at Light Heavyweight? And who should he target in the new year?