Steve Geffrard replaces Callum Johnson as Joe Smith 1/15 opponent on ESPN
Another training camp will not be lost for Joe Smith Jr.
Steve Geffrard on Friday agreed to replace Callum Johnson as Smith’s opponent on January 15 in a main event ESPN will broadcast from the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs) is unknown and unproven at the championship level, but the 31-year-old Miami native is in good shape as he had to fight Argentina’s Gonzalo Andreasen (7-8, 6 KOs, 1 NC) in an eight round Saturday night in Delray Beach, Fla.
Unlike several other potential replacement matchmakers for Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. contacted, Geffrard was prepared to lead a very tough fight against the WBO light heavyweight champion for a reasonable purse and with eight days notice. Geffrard is not ranked in the top 15 by the WBO, a condition of eligibility for a title shot, but Smith-Geffrard is expected to be sanctioned as a WBO championship game.
England’s Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) is a big puncher who would have been more dangerous for Smith (27-3, 21 KOs), but the 36-year-old contender tested positive for COVID-19 this week and s ‘is withdrawn Thursday from their 12-round fight.
Johnson replaced Russian Umar Salamov as Smith’s opponent in mid-November because Salamov was unable to secure a visa to travel to the United States to challenge Smith on January 15. Salamov (26-2, 19 KOs) instead gave up on a 12-round unanimous decision. to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) on December 11 in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Geffrard, meanwhile, will have an 18-game winning streak in his fight against Smith.
He hasn’t lost since Travis Reeves (then 0-1-1) beat him by split decision in their four-round game in June 2013 in Sunrise, Fla. In his previous fight, Kentrell Claiborne (then 2-6) stopped Geffrard in the third round of Geffrard’s professional debut in February 2013 in Detroit.
Smith, 32, will make the first defense of the 175-pound WBO Championship he won in his last fight – a 12-round majority decision victory over Russian Maxim Vlasov (46-4, 26 KOs) on April 10 . at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Smith was scheduled to face Salamov on October 30 at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York City, but Smith contracted COVID-19 in mid-September.
Keith Idec is a senior writer / columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.