When Saturday arrives, Joe Smith Jr. will finally be able to walk down to the ring and defend his WBO light heavyweight title. However, he will face off against a much different opponent than expected.
Smith will now fight Steve Geffrard on ESPN. His original opponent, Callum Johnson, tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago, altering the matchup. The fight will take place inside the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
“I give Steve credit for taking this fight on short notice,” Smith said in a release. “He is a tough guy, and I expect him to bring everything he has for this opportunity. I’m ready to fight regardless of who is in the ring with me. My goal is the same, which is to defend my world title and keep it on Long Island where it belongs.”
MORE: Callum Johnson out of title fight vs. Joe Smith Jr. after positive COVID test
Smith made his pro debut in 2009. He beat Maxim Vlasov in April to win the WBO light heavyweight title. Umar Salamov was originally supposed to face Smith for the title in October at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, but Smith tested positive for COVID-19 and was in the hospital for a few days.
Geffrard, an unranked fighter, was supposed to be fighting Gonzalo Andreassen on Jan. 8 but was pulled to make this matchup happen.
The Miami native made his pro debut in 2013. Since losing two in a row to start his career, he has won 18 in a row. His last fight was a unanimous-decision win over Denis Grachev in March, the first time he fought since 2018. The 31-year-old has 12 wins via knockout.
The WBO is expected to approve this matchup despite the last-minute announcement. Right outside the top 15 within the WBO’s rankings, Geffrard is looking to make an immediate impact thanks to this change.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Geffrard said. “It’s crazy how boxing works. One moment I’m thinking about boxing on a local show, then the phone rings for a chance to fight for the WBO world title on ESPN. Unreal!”