Light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. is headed for surgery later this week after he suffered a broken jaw in his 10-round decision loss to Sullivan Barrera on Saturday night in one of the HBO-televised bouts at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Smith (23-2, 19 KOs) scored a first-round knockdown with a powerful left hand against Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) but showed virtually nothing for the rest of the fight, which he lost by scores of 97-92, 97-92 and 96-93 on the undercard of the junior lightweight world title fight between Miguel Berchelt and Takashi Miura.
Smith’s poor performance over the final nine rounds likely was because he was boxing with a broken jaw.
“I truly gave it my all. Sullivan Barrera is a great, tough warrior. I have a lot of respect for what he did,” Smith said on social media. “I had a good first round. I dropped Barrera. I knew he would get back up, and he did. He came back strong, and he landed a few good shots from that point on. It was not going as planned, as you all saw. Somewhere during the second round, I was injured and was in a lot of pain, but I did not want to let it show, and I refused to quit.”
Said Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia, “Joe knocked down Barrera hard in the first round, but in the second round, he sustained a broken jaw. It’s a similar injury to the one he suffered five years ago, and frankly, it’s amazing that he continued to valiantly fight over the next eight rounds and finish the fight.”
DeGuardia said that when Smith lost his only other fight, a fourth-round knockout to Eddie Caminero in 2010, he also suffered a broken jaw.
“After spending part of Saturday night at the UCLA Medical Center, Joe will have surgery later this week in New York, and we’ll know more then about a time frame for his full recovery,” DeGuardia said. “We congratulate Sullivan Barrera on his victory.
“We at Star Boxing are extremely proud of Joe for fighting this fight under such extreme conditions, as are all his fans who came to the fight from Long Island and those who watched on HBO. Joe Smith is a true warrior and epitomizes what a real fighter is supposed to be.”
Smith said the pain increased as the fight went on, but he fought through it even though he thought about quitting.
“As the fight went on, it got much tougher for me, as the pain was just increasing more and more,” Smith said. “I came very close to calling it. My corner was amazing. Thank you [trainer] Jerry [Capobianco] and [manager] Phil [Capobianco] for the advice and inspiration giving me the strength to keep me going. You guys are the best. [Cutman] Stitch [Duran], thank you for keeping down all the swelling. After the fight, I went to the hospital for the second time in my career. It turns out I had my jaw fractured, just as I expected, so I fought about nine rounds with this. So I am very proud.
“I will be taking some time to heal. I would also like to thank my father for being next to me and keeping me calm though all the pain and disappointment I was feeling. So you all know, I am feeling good and ready to enjoy some great smoothies, summer and some relaxation.”
DeGuardia told ESPN that Smith had badly bruised his jaw during his final sparring session before the fight and that he had X-rays, but they were negative, despite his still being in pain.
Smith, a 27-year-old construction worker from New York’s Long Island, raised his stock enormously in 2016, when he went from obscurity to title contention by scoring an upset knockout of contender Andrzej Fonfara in June and followed with a huge victory over legendary Bernard Hopkins in December also at the Forum, where Smith knocked Hopkins out of the ring in an eighth-round knockout victory that sent the future Hall of Famer into retirement.