Joe Smith Jr. proved to be more than a good story: Weekend Review
Joe Smith Jr.: Smith was supposed to be just a good story, not a real threat to Andrzej Fonfara in front of the Pole’s fans Saturday in Chicago. Smith, the oldest of eight siblings, is a member of Local 66 Laborers Union in Long Island, New York, and a part-time boxer who has some skills and happens to punch very hard. He made a name for himself on small cards in his area and outpointed a capable Will Rosinsky on the Daniel Jacobs-Peter Quillin card in Brooklyn in December but was virtually unknown on a larger scale. That changed Saturday at the UIC Pavilion on NBC. Fonfara, rated No. 8 by THE RING at the time and a legitimate light heavyweight title contender, was in attack mode when Smith caught him with a short right from hell about one minute into the first round that in effect ended the fight. Fonfara got up but staggered into the ropes, which prevented him from falling out of the ring. Smith then demonstrated that he’s a formidable closer, pummeling Fonfara with a barrage of hard shots – including a huge left hook – that put Fonfara down again, this time for good. Fonfara lasted only 2 minutes, 32 seconds. It wasn’t exactly “Rocky” but I had that kind of feel, the blue-collar guy emerging from nowhere to stop the well-known title contender on national television. That’s big. Expect to see more of Smith (22-1, 18 knockouts) given the magnitude of the upset and his obvious punching power, which won’t be lost on TV executives. They love a good story and an exciting fighter. Smith is both.
There is already talk of a Smith-Adonis Stevenson fight if Stevenson, the WBC titleholder, beats Thomas Williams Jr. on July 29. I would favor Stevenson, the more-proven commodity, even though Smith’s trainer, Jerry Capobianco, says the Canadian is too old (38) and too slow for his fighter. Smith’s power gives him a chance in any fight, though. And, obviously, that’s one you wouldn’t want to miss: The fighters are a combined 49-2 with 40 knockouts. That translates to guaranteed fireworks. ÔÇª Fonfara (28-4, 16 KOs) is a good fighter. He has demonstrated that a number of times over the past several years, including important victories over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Nathan Cleverly last year. And he’s only 28. I’m guessing he puts this setback behind him and bounces back quickly. ÔÇª The ability and grit Rau’shee Warren (14-1, 4 KOs) demonstrated against Juan Carlos Payano (17-1, 8 KOs) on the Fonfara-Smith card was impressive, particularly his determination the last few rounds. That surge won him their rematch – by majority decision – and Payano’s WBA bantamweight title, Warren’s first major belt. Warren is a good fighter – skillful, quick and tough. The only thing that could hold him back is his lack of punching power. I suspect harder punchers than Payano will walk through Warren’s shots and hurt him. We’ll see. ÔÇª Daniel Sandoval wasn’t much of a test for Erickson Lubin on the Fonfara-Smith card but the former amateur star sure looked good. I liked his poise and precision punching, including some punishing body work. And his explosiveness when he had Sandoval hurt was impressive. Lubin (15-0, 11 KOs) stopped Sandoval (38-4, 35 KOs) at 2:36 of the third round.