Joe Smith Jr scored an impressive ninth round knockout win over Eleider Alvarez in their WBO title eliminator at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on Saturday.
Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) connected with a huge right hand and followed up with a left which sent Alvarez (25-2, 13 KOs) crashing through the ropes, as Smith edged towards a second world title shot inside The Bubble on Top Rank’s return.
Smith, who claimed took a split decision win against Jessie Hart in January is set to face the winner of the other proposed eliminator between Umar Salamov and Maxim Maslov.
‘The Irish Bomber’ started this one on the front foot, as he attempted to make a quick start to the contest and although he threw punches in high volumes, former world champion Alvarez landed a right hand on the back, off a solid jab.
Smith, 30, again rushed Alvarez at the start of the second, and former world title challenger was putting together some eye catching combinations, but Alvarez was alert to the danger, countering with decent right hands of his own.
Alvarez took a lot of Smith’s best blows on his arms, and the third saw the Colombian assert himself more, landing with more authoritative shots and working off a stiff jab.
Smith was hungry to win though, and he was busting a bloodied Alvarez up in round five, piercing his guard with several hard lefts and rights.
The fight was slipping away from the the 36-year-old and Smith’s output showed no signs of slowing down going into the second half of the fight.
A big looping right hand from ’Storm’ in the seventh stiffened Smith’s legs, as he finally came to life, but ‘The Beast’ roared back to end the session on top.
Smith’s constant pressure finally told in the ninth, as a sledgehammer lead right hand and a follow up left crumpled Alvarez to the bottom rope and then the canvas, unable to beat referee Tony Weeks’ count, as the fight was declared over.
“Coming into this fight, I knew I had to work on my boxing” said Smith told ESPN post-fight.
“I watched his fight with [Sergey] Kovalev, and Kovalev set the way to beat him.
“I knew I had to box a little bit more because he has a great right hand, which he caught me with a couple of times, but every time he hit me, I came right back at him and stopped him in his tracks.
“I wanted to prove that I’m not just a knockout guy. I’ll be more prepared, and I feel like I’m ready for a second shot, I’ll bring that belt home.”
Former Middleweight world champion Rob Brant returned to winning ways in the co-feature, with an end of fifth round retirement of tough Ukrainian, Vitalii Kopylenko.
Brant (26-2, 18 KOs), who lost his world title to Ryota Murata in their rematch in last July took time to find his range, but when he got going he broke Kopylenko (28-3, 16 KOs) down, with the visitor’s eye nearly completely closed by the fifth session.
The end came at the conclusion of the round, with the swelling under Kopylenko’s eye now grotesque, and his corner wisely agreed to save their man for another day.
Julian Rodriguez dropped Anthony Laureano (13-1, 4 KOs) three times to score an impressive opening round knockout win.
The New Jersey Super-Lightweight moved to 20-0 (13 KOs) as a result of his devastating win.
The always exciting Clay Collard (9-2-3, 4 KOs) kept busy with a second round stoppage of Maurice Williams.
A big left hand left Williams (7-2, 3 KOs) defenceless, and the referee called a halt to the action.
Duke Ragan (1-0, 1 KO) wasted little time on his pro debut, a beautiful right hand dropping Luis Alvarado (1-2) at the end of the first round that the Washington native just couldn’t recover from, and he was stopped during the count.
Robert Rodriguez (9-0-1, 5 KOs) dominated Abel Soriano (10-1, 7 KOs) and scored a highlight reel opening round knockout.
Israel Mercado (8-0, 7 KOs) scored a six round points win over Adrian Valdovinos (5-1-1, 4 KOs).
Two scores of 60-54 and a third at 59-55 secured the win.
Wendy Toussaint (12-0, 5 KOs) claimed an eight round decision win over Isiah Jones (9-3, 3 KOs) at Super Welterweight.
Two scores of 79-73 and an 80-72 card gave ‘Haitian Fire’ victory.