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 Smith and Geffrard 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.”