Jesse Hart had high hopes against Joe Smith Jr. in front of an Atlantic City crowd, but he didn’t show much and got dominated from bell to bell.
Jesse Hart came into his Saturday, Jan. 11 light heavyweight boxing bout with Joe Smith Jr. with all the momentum. The Philadelphia fighter had a large contingent of fans in Atlantic City, but that didn’t mean anything to Smith who made beating Hart look easy.
Before his fight with Hart, Smith lost two out of his last three matches. He suffered a lopsided decision against Dmitry Bivol in March of 2019, and Hart was the betting favorite. Smith fought a smart fight and likely won a lot of fans who were watching the ESPN nationally televised matchup.
Smith charged Hart for most of round 1. Tim Bradley and Andre Ward criticized Hart for moving too much and expending energy early. It was a good pressure round for Smith, who was in attack mode the entire time.
Hart tried to establish his jab early in round 2. Hart circled away and held when Smith closed the distance. Hart looked overly cautious and gave Smith too much respect. Smith eventually got in close and clubbed Hart with right hands.
One of those punches caught Hart on the button and wobbled his legs, but it was within the last 30 seconds, and the bell helped him escape the round without taking further punishment.
Hart planted his feet in round 3 and delivered a 3-punch combo, but the shots didn’t get through Smith’s guard. Hart again retreated and tried to counterpunch, but Smith’s determination to move forward made it difficult. It was a better round for Hart, who looked more comfortable.
Smith tagged Hart early in round 4 with his booming right hand. Hart ate it well, but it forced him to move away on his back foot. Smith smothered Hart along the ropes for most of the round, and all Hart could do was hold to force the break. Hart forfeited any momentum he built up in the previous round.
In round 5, Smith looked to take the round off, but he still won it by applying pressure. Hart skipped around the ring without landing anything meaningful. He gave away another point and looked like he already needed a knockout to win the fight.
In the sixth round, Smith popped Hart’s head up with a strong right uppercut. Hart looked gassed, and Smith appeared determined and methodical.
Smith’s energy level increased in round 7. He threw some wild haymakers at Hart and connected with several of them. Hart had no answer. Smith let a right hook fly that dropped Hart to the canvas. Hart’s knee hit the floor, and he quickly popped up, but it was a knockdown.
Smith jumped on him, but there were only 8 seconds left, and Hart survived the round.
Smith used a lot of energy in the previous round, and he had to measure his attack in round 8. He was still active and scored often, but he couldn’t end the night. Hart did nothing to stem Smith’s onslaught.
In round 9, Hart tried to stand his ground on one occasion and doubled up on the left hand, but Smith walked through his punches and sent him reeling against the ropes with a right power punch. Smith opened up a cut on Hart’s left brow. The ring doctor took a look and allowed him to continue.
Hart fought to survive round 10. It’s as if he knew he couldn’t win the fight, so surviving it was the next best consolation. Smith didn’t make lasting the bout easy. He battered Hart as he did the entire night. Smith wanted the knockout, but Hart’s movement made that impossible.
Before the scores were read, a riot broke out in the crowd. Security had to clear out a portion of the arena floor. With order restored, the scores were read.
One judge shockingly had the fight 95-94 for Hart. The other two made up for the appalling single score with cards of 97-92 and 98-91 for Smith, who won by split-decision.
After the fight, Smith spoke about his decisive victory.
“I needed this win tonight,” said Smith. ” I needed to make a statement that I belong in this division.”
“I think I made a statement, and I’m excited to see what happens next.”
With the win against Hart, Smith’s career has renewed life while Hart’s stalled. Don’t be surprised if Smith fights for a world title in his next bout.