Steve Gefferd wasn’t supposed to be here. Last Friday, he was preparing for a fight in Delray Beach, Florida, when he got a call. WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Smith Jr. needed an opponent after Britain’s Callum Johnson contracted COVID-19.
(Image credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)
Jeffrard answered the call and will fight Smith on Saturday evening at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 PM ET / 7 PM PT).
Jeffrard (18-2, 12 KOs), a South Florida native and former American amateur, was 0-2 before scoring 18 straight wins. Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) defeated Maxim Vlasov last April and will finally defend his title after a COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his comeback.
In the 10-round combined advantage, featherweight competitor Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KOs) will be looking to extend his unbeaten record against Dominican Olympian William Encarnacion (19-1, 15 KOs).
The bottom card will be broadcast live on ESPN+ (7:45PM ET/4:45PM PT) and includes Puerto Rican rising star Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs), 18-year-old welterweight Jahi Tucker (5-0, 3 KOs), and last US Olympian Troy Isley (3-0, 2 KOs) in separate rounds.
This is what the fighters said at the press conference on Thursday.
Joe Smith Jr.
“I can’t wait to be on ESPN this Saturday to defend my world title in front of the whole world. I’m so happy to be here. There were a few moments where I thought I wouldn’t be here. I can’t wait! Thanks to everyone who made this happen.”
“Since becoming a world champion, the only thing that has really changed for me is that I hold that title, and I want to keep it that way.”
“Geffrard has been in the ring training with the best. I am sure he will do his best and try to take full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“When those belts are on the line, that mental switch comes into play. I know I can fight against the best mentally and skillfully. I’ve squabbled with the best team in the division and have handled myself very well.”
“I am a fighter, especially with an opportunity like this. I will rise to the occasion. I will show the world who Steve Jeffrard is.”
“I was in the sauna when I got the call for this fight. I was looking forward to the Smith vs. Johnson match, but now I’m the one fighting for the title. It’s surreal.”
“I am excited because I will be fighting near my hometown (Albany). You guys are going to see a fighter full of action. I am ready to put in a great performance. I am looking for a big win on Saturday night.”
“I want to shine and make a statement on Saturday. I want to send a message to the featherweight division. By the end of this year, I want to fight for a world title. I would like to challenge Emmanuel ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete for his title.”
“For two consecutive months, we had a plan for a match for one of the competitors, and at the last moment, we had a change of opponent. What I saw from my new opponent is that he is a very good fighter. He has the skills and a high IQ ring. He is an Olympian. It does not matter. We have one goal, which is Win by all necessary means.”
“I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I am happy for this opportunity.”
“It was a good preparation. I didn’t have a fight date when they called me for this opportunity, but I always keep training in the gym. I am ready to go on Saturday.”
Saturday 15 January 2022
ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+, 10PM ET / 7PM PT
- Joe Smith Jr vs. Steve Jeffrard, 12 rounds, Smith WBO Light Heavyweight Championship
- Abraham Nova vs William Encarnacion, 10 rounds, featherweight
ESPN+, 7:45pm ET / 4:45pm PT
- Omar Rosario vs Rickwon Butler, 6 Rounds, Junior Welterweight
- Jahi Tucker vs. Akeem Black, 6 Rounds, Welterweight
- Troy Easley vs Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano, 6 Rounds, Welterweight
- Ljubomir Pinchuk vs Jose Mario Flores, 8 Rounds, Heavyweight