Saturday, March 25, 2023  |


Joe Smith Jr.’s trainer still basking in glow of Hopkins KO

Joe Smith Jr. knocks Bernard Hopkins out of the ring.

Nights like these, you don’t want them to end.

If you maybe sometimes subscribe to the HL Mencken concept that “the universe is run idiotically, and its only certain product is sorrow,” then it’s quite comprehensible that as part of Team Smith you’d want a night like Joe Smith Jr. and crew had Saturday to not end.

Sleep would break the spell of magic and thus would be something to postpone indefinitely.

Ah, but an inevitability can merely be postponed, never forever excised. Like aging. Gets to the best of us. And the worst of us. All of us fortunate enough to pile up some decades see the gray hairs, the creakier joints, the crankier bones susceptible more to trauma than when our flesh armor showed fewer dents.

Youth won on Dec. 17 in Inglewood, California at The Forum when a legend sought to keep the inevitable at bay long enough to cap a majestic career in a manner he thought more appropriate to his concept of what he perceives his career arc to be. Some would argue that the ending, with him being smashed through the middle ropes onto the arena floor, and then protesting against clear and present evidence that he’d been pushed, was the most apt of endings for the street-smartest and coldly calculating shrewd ring general/businessman-boxer we are ever likely to see.

Jerry Capobianco, of the Fighting Capobianco Brothers from Long Island, was across the ring, seeing the disastrous drop to the floor of harsh reality for the pride-filled warrior who can longer be described as “ageless.” He’d been telling me for two months it could end like this. Well, not quite like that….

“Woodsy, I didn’t think Joey would knock him into the third row,” Cap told me after snagging a couple hours of sleep, and as he started to ready his luggage for a flight back to New York.

The trainer told me that it has been a helluva ride that beats anything Disneyland has built. Last Sunday, he dashed to welcome his daughters’ new baby into this world, to the Ring 8 (NY) holiday gala to get the Trainer of the Year award (oh, and he better get some love from the BWAA snob set and Smith better, too, as Fighter of the Year). He then scrambled to the airport to get knee deep into fight week. Another fight week in which his kid was being brought in to be the loser, as he was this summer when he wrecked the best laid plans of Andrzej Fonfara. “I haven’t held my daughters’ baby yet,” Cap told me.

I told him to pack, get to the airport and then smell the pilot’s breath, make sure he hasn’t been drinking. This run ain’t done.

As for the fight, Cap watched the re-showing on HBO Sunday morning. I admitted that I saw a tight fight, and was impressed with Hopkins’ sneaky quick right hand. Haters want to tear down, diminish efforts which surpass their own more meager triumphs and so some take to Twitter and take potshots at Smith’s foes, Fonfara and Hopkins. Eff that, I thundered to Cap, who chuckled.

He knew things were playing out pretty well, he told me, because in every round, he saw his common man land a thudder or two which made Hopkins wince. That’s an edge you have being “thisclose” to the trading. “The body shots, I saw them working,” he said, cracking on himself for being so vocal and repetitive in the corner. “Body body body,” he screamed, with the insistence of a toddler demanding a chocolate chip cookie from mom. The jab, he wanted more of them, but as I noted, the almost 52 year old was still a smart defender. He moved his head and stuffed many with his lead hand. Yeah, reminder, this was no beyond shot corpse Smith beat, don’t you engage in revisionist history and try to chip away at the Smith win.

Fighter of the Year, it’s Joe Smith. To my criteria, anyway. Two fights against top-tier foes, two vicious stoppages. No, he’s not in the refined category, like Carl Frampton and Roman Gonzalez, guys who BWAA voters like to reward for being superior technicians. But this award is for FIGHTER of the year so voters can feel free to opine on what that means. To me, it means that the winner owns attributes and triumphs that resonate mightily and touch on intangibles. Joe Smith worked a frickin construction job and then went to the gym and his second job and persevered and won. Twice. Once is an oddity. Twice is two mega-millions lotto wins. He is a role model for us all, coming from a difficult upbringing, full of dysfunction and instability. Joe Smith won with dignity and humility and immense class. He reminds us again how beneficial boxing can be to good souls who find it to be a therapeutic valve for mental health and a pathway to prosperity unimaginable to those born into difficult atmospheres. Stories like that, you never want them to end, but they do, so they deserve to be properly highlighted when appropriate.