Dmitry Bivol Schools Joe Smith Jr.

By Robert Ecksel on March 9, 2019
Dmitry Bivol Schools Joe Smith Jr.
Bivol's cornerman advised, “Just let him punch the air.” (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom USA)

Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol successfully defended his title by schooling Joe Smith Jr….

Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, in a fight streamed live on DAZN, WBA World light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 12 KOs), from St. Petersburg, Russia, by way of Tokmak, Kyrgystan, successfully defended his title by schooling Joe Smith Jr. (24-3, 20 KOs), the blue-eyed bomber from Mastic, New York, over 12 one-sided rounds.

The final scores were 118-110 (Don Trella) and 119-109 twice (Glenn Feldman and Tom Schreck).

Fighting out of the blue corner in black trunks with white trim, Bivol established his superiority at the opening bell. An elite boxer-puncher fighting in his challenger’s backyard, even the judges got it right by awarding the Long Island native the one or two rounds he deserved.

Smith, fighting out of the red corner in white trunks embellished with red and blue stars, struggled most of the night to get inside where damage might be done. But the champion controlled the action with the same efficiency as he controlled his opponent, effortlessly landing when and where he wanted.

The tone of the fight was revealed in round one. Smith applied pressure but landed next to nothing. Bivol jabbed to the head and body while Bivol’s punches harmlessly whooshed past him. After the first Bivol’s corner told him, “Just relax. Relax. Just let him punch the air.”

Rounds two and three were no different than the first. Smith was pressing forward, while Bivol timed his rushes, economically landing combinations at will.

Bivol began opening up in the third. Careful but concise, he was throwing and landing punches with bad intentions and precision, displaying the ring IQ of a seasoned veteran at the top of his game. Smith’s left eye was starting to swell as the round drew to a close.

A glancing overhand right got Bivol’s attention in round four, but he weathered the storm, which was of short duration. But Smith had discovered that Bivol’s defense was not impenetrable and he may have won the round, if only by a hair.

Smith’s corner was encouraged by what they’d seen. “Just don’t follow,” he was told. “Be a little more patient. You hurt him.”

Smith continued stalking in rounds five and six. He also failed to land any meaningful punches as Bivol was systematically breaking him down.

Bivol picked up where he left off and stunned Smith with a left hook in the seventh. Smith is as game as he is tough, but he was clearly outclassed.

In round eight, Bivol staggered Smith again by hooking off the jab. Smith was in over his head, but to his credit never stopped trying.

After the round Bivol’s cornerman said what the rest of us were thinking: “I don’t even know how he’s standing up to your punches.”

With his frustration growing, Smith picked up Bivol in round nine when they were in close and body slammed the champ to the canvas. The referee, Gary Rosato, was not amused and warned the challenger, “You do that again—I’m taking a point off.” The blatant attempt to get Bivol off his game failed as miserably as Smith’s more conventional attempts in the eight rounds preceding it. Bivol simply picked up where he left off, landing hooks and combinations upstairs and down as he racked up more points and pocketed another round.

Round 10 resembled all the other rounds, at least for the first two minutes and 59 seconds. Smith tried and failed to land any punches on Bivol, who wasn’t running but who was catching everything Smith threw on his gloves. Then, as the round was drawing to a close, Smith landed his best shot of the night at the bell, a right hand that caught Bivol and hurt him.

Bivol wobbled his way to the blue corner, where his cornerman used blue language to express his displeasure.

“What the fuck did you do at the end,” he asked. “You okay? What’s wrong with your legs? What did you do at the end?”

Bivol has no answer for his cornerman, but he had an answer for Joe Smith Jr. in the 11th. After eating another right, Bivol settled down and landed a jab and a hook that stopped the challenger in his tracks. Smith still had a puncher’s chance, but that chance dissolved in the 12th and final round under a fusillade of punches from the titleholder’s arsenal.

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  1. Koolz 12:13pm, 03/10/2019

    was a great fight.
    Nice Judo Throw Joe.
    Joe should have been deducted a point at least once here in this fight.

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