Long Island already is the hometown of a current boxing champion.
It’s Joe Smith Jr., “The Common Man” from Shirley.
And in just a couple of days, Smith Jr. could have three light-heavyweight championships to his name.
“It’s a great feeling just to become a world champion was my main goal and I got it done” Smith told Greater Long Island. “Now to become a unified champion, I hope to pull it off.”
On Saturday, June 18, the Shirley resident, William Floyd High School graduate and current WBO light-heavyweight champion takes on undefeated IBF and WBC champion Artur Beterbiev at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The match will be available on ESPN+.
For the 32-year old Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) this fight represents yet another in which he is the underdog, something Smith says he’s gotten used to. “It doesn’t bother me, I’m used to it. I know I’m in for a big fight, one of the best fighters in the world.”
Beterbiev is undefeated with 17 knockouts in 17 pro fights. He’s one of the few boxers on the planet who can match Smith’s boxing power.
“This definitely has the potential to be the fight of the year, I believe,” said Smith. “You have two big strong light heavyweights in there. Both guys like to knock people out.”
If Smith wins, a rematch looms with WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, who defeated Smith by decision in 2019. If he wins, he’ll become the world’s unified light heavyweight champ.
“I think I can pull it off and hopefully do it by the end of the year if possible, or early next year,” he said.
If Smith does fight Bivol, he’ll undoubtedly be the underdog. Nothing new. And it’s just the way he likes it.
Top: Joe Smith Jr. punches Maxim Vlasov during a light heavyweight boxing bout in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Smith won the fight by majority decision. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)