When Callum Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago and had to pull out of his fight with WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith, the man most impacted by it was Smith’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing.
DeGuardia knew Smith would want to fight and would willingly face any opponent he could find. But it wasn’t an easy task to get someone to step in to face Smith on Saturday at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, despite the fact it would be for Smith’s championship.
“Literally, we went through dozens, over a dozen fighters,” DeGuardia said before Steve Geffrard finally said yes. “Guys were turning it down, left and right. It’s the championship of the world, the opportunity of a lifetime. Every one of them, Joe Smith told me, ‘Yes, no problem.’ Finally, after about the eighth guy, he said to me, ‘Listen Joe, whoever you put in there, I don’t care. I’m fighting, so just go make a deal.’”
They landed on Geffrard, who was in the sauna cutting weight when his trainer, Kevin Cunningham, called him and told him that he had a chance to fight for the title. Cutting weight is the most difficult part of a fighter’s job and it didn’t take Geffrard long to get out of the sauna and agree to the bout.
But he faces long odds against him. Smith is 27-3 with 21 knockouts and developing into a formidable fighter in a division filled with them.
Former world champion Tim Bradley, who will be working the fight for ESPN, has become a Smith fan.
“He’s not going to trick you and there is no secret to what he’s going to do,” Bradley said. “He’s going to be right in front of you throwing hands. But he hits hard — hard, man — with both hands and he’s getting more and more confident.”
Smith is -1200 at BetMGM to retain his title, while Geffrard is +650. There is no value in betting Smith at that number, because as Bradley said, Geffrard has a little pop, too, and bettors won’t get rich laying $1,200 to win $100.
BetMGM’s props are where to look. Smith by KO/TKO/Technical Decision or DQ is a much more reasonable -450, while Smith by decision is +500.
Geffrard lost his first two pro fights and then has reeled off 18 victories in a row, albeit against lesser competition. But it wasn’t that long ago that Smith was considered lesser opposition.
Geffrard has sparred with many elite opponents, including Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev. That has helped give him an idea of what he’s in for.
He’s proven to be sturdy and able to take a shot.
That’s making Smith by decision look more attractive at plus money. Smith hits hard enough that if he catches Geffrard, he could end it quickly with one big flurry. No one is sure how Geffrard will handle the bright lights and all the attention that goes with being in a world title fight.
But having the veteran Cunningham in his corner is a big plus. Cunningham will keep him calm and help him throughout the fight with smart adjustments. Cunningham is very good in the corner and gets the most out of his fighters.
That leads me to Smith by decision at +500. But I’ll also bet the fight to go the distance at +333, so I have a chance to risk $200 and make $833 with the two bets.