Steve Geffrard wasn’t supposed to be here. Last Friday, he was preparing to weigh in for a fight in Delray Beach, Florida, when he received a call. WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. needed an opponent after British puncher Callum Johnson contracted COVID-19.
Geffrard answered the call and will fight Smith this Saturday evening at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs), a South Florida native and former U.S. amateur standout, was 0-2 before rattling off 18 consecutive victories. Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) defeated Maxim Vlasov last April and will finally defend his title after a COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his return.
In the 10-round co-feature, featherweight contender Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KOs) will look to extend his unbeaten record against 2012 Dominican Olympian William Encarnacion (19-1, 15 KOs).
The undercard will stream live on ESPN+ (7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT) and includes rising Puerto Rican star Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs), 18-year-old welterweight Jahi Tucker (5-0, 3 KOs), and recent U.S. Olympian Troy Isley (3-0, 2 KOs) in separate bouts.
At Thursday’s press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.
Joe Smith Jr.
“I can’t wait to be on ESPN this Saturday defending my world title in front of the whole world. I’m extremely happy to be here. There were a couple of moments where I thought I wasn’t going to be here. I can’t wait! Thanks to everyone that made this happen.”
“Since I became a world champion, the only thing that has really changed for me is that I’m holding this title, and I want to keep it that way.”
“Geffrard has been inside the ring training with the best. I’m sure he is going to give it his all and will try to take full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“When those belts are on the line, that mental switch turns on. I know that mentally and skill-wise I can battle with the best. I have sparred with, and handled myself very well, against the best of the division.”
“I’m a fighter, especially with an opportunity like this. I’m going to rise to the occasion. I’ll show the world who Steve Geffrard is.”
“I was in the sauna when I got the call for this fight. I was looking forward to Smith vs. Johnson, but now I’m the one fighting for the title. It’s surreal.”
“I’m excited because I’ll be fighting very close to my hometown (Albany). You guys are going to see an action-packed fighter. I’m ready to put on a great performance. I’m looking for a big win on Saturday night.”
“I want to shine and make a statement this Saturday. I want to send a message to the featherweight division. By the end of this year, I want to be fighting for a world title. I would love to challenge Emanuel ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete for his title.”
“For two months straight, we had a game plan for an opponent, and at the last minute, we had a change of opponent. What I have seen from my new opponent is that he is a very good fighter. He has the skills and a high ring IQ. He is an Olympian. It doesn’t matter. We have one goal, and that is to win by all means necessary.”
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I am thrilled about this opportunity.”
“It has been a good preparation. I didn’t even have a fight date when they called me for this opportunity, but I always keep training in the gym. I’m ready to go this Saturday.”
SATURDAY, January 15, 2022
ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Joe Smith Jr. vs. Steve Geffrard, 12 rounds, Smith’s WBO Light Heavyweight World Title
Abraham Nova vs. William Encarnacion, 10 rounds, featherweight
ESPN+, 7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT
Omar Rosario vs. Raekwon Butler, 6 rounds, junior welterweight
Jahi Tucker vs. Akeem Black, 6 rounds, welterweight
Troy Isley vs. Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano, 6 rounds, middleweight
Lyubomyr Pinchuk vs. Jose Mario Flores, 8 rounds, heavyweight