A power puncher with a blue-collar background, Joe Smith Jr was born on September 20, 1989 and hails from Long Island, New York. He wasn’t considered the next big thing in boxing growing up, as he spent quite a few years working as a laborer on construction sites. However, his love for the sport and his skill led to his decision to give professional prizefighting a try just after he turned 20.
Smith Jr made his professional debut on October 31, 2009 against David Brown. The fight was short, as he ended up scoring a TKO in the very first round. His next fight was a first-round KO, followed by two more first-round TKOs. One thing was clear from the beginning – Joe Smith Jr had some serious power.
On June 26, 2010, he took on Walter Foster and won by way of TKO in the second round. The result was the same when he fought Charles Wade on July 28, 2010. However, his luck would change in his next fight on August 7, 2010, as he was stopped in the fourth-round by TKO by Eddie Caminero. At 6-3, Caminero was a bit of a step up from his previous opposition, but it was also likely that the frequency of his fights led to a down night.
Smith Jr took some time off after that, eventually making his comeback on July 30, 2011 against Santos Martinez. He went back to his winning ways with a KO in the second round. He followed that up with four more stoppage victories. He then had a streak of decisions, as he beat Hamid Abdul-Mateen by unanimous decision, Lamont Williams by split decision and Otis Griffin by unanimous decision.
That proved to be an anomaly, as he would stop Michael Gbenga after two rounds and then score four consecutive TKOs before beating Will Rosinsky by unanimous decision after 10 rounds of action. A second-round TKO over Fabiano Pena earned him the biggest fight of his life, against Andrzej Fonfara on June 18, 2016 for the WBC international light heavyweight title.
The fight was in hostile territory, Chicago, where Fonfara was a fan favorite. Joe Smith Jr came in as a huge underdog, as most felt he would be outclassed by Fonfara. He shocked everyone in attendance and watching worldwide when he came out working the body, and then went upstairs with a beautiful right hand to knock down Fonfara. A second powerful right hand resulted in another knockdown and the end of the fight, by way of TKO in the very first round.
Following up that exciting and impressive performance, he fought 51-year-old Bernard Hopkins on December 17, 2016 for the legendary boxer’s final fight. While Hopkins talked quite a bit of trash in the leadup to the fight, Smith Jr was unfazed and prepared to do his talking in the ring. The fight was close for the first seven rounds, but in the eighth, he landed a brutal combination of punches that knocked Hopkins out of the ring. When Hopkins couldn’t climb back in to beat the count due to an ankle injury, Joe Smith Jr became the first boxer to beat Hopkins by stoppage.