Dmitry Bivol vs. Joe Smith Jr. Preview

Matchroom Boxing USA returns to New York for a world title doubleheader on DAZN on March 9. The card, taking place at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, will feature WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol defending his title against Joe Smith Jr.

Bivol is one of boxing’s brightest stars at light heavyweight and has looked good throughout his world title reign, although now the boxing community calls for bigger fights than the ones Bivol has had as of late. Bivol had been primed for a potential showdown against Sergey Kovalev, but after Kovalev lost his WBO title against Sullivan Barrera last year, those plans fell through, leaving Bivol and his team to rethink his short-term future.

The short-term future resulted in Bivol signing with DAZN, where the 175-pound roster is somewhat shallow, but the Russian has hinted in the past about a possible drop to super middleweight where there are greener pastures.

Smith, on the other hand, is currently looking to re-establish himself as a top light heavyweight. After Smith retired Bernard Hopkins in 2016, his career failed to give him a world title shot until now. Smith lost to Sullivan Barrera in 2017 in a fight where the winner was almost assured an eventual world title fight, but the New York native bounced back with a first-round knockout win over Melvin Russell.

As for the other world title fight, WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker is defending his title against Mikkel LesPierre. The fight is Hooker’s second title defense since upsetting Terry Flanagan last year in the United Kingdom last year to claim the vacant belt.

In a loaded junior welterweight division that also features the likes of Ivan Baranchyk, Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez among others, Hooker’s path to becoming the top fighter in the division might be a little murky unless he gets a fight against any of the other champions. In an exclusive interview with Fightful, Hooker said he aims to knock out LesPierre then defend his title in his hometown of Dallas in June and aim for unification fights in 2020.

Not much is known about LesPierre aside from his undefeated record and 20-fight win streak heading into the fight. LesPierre’s resume is not that impressive on paper with no signature wins against a reputable opponent. In fact, three of his last five wins have been against opponents with 15 or less pro bouts under their belt and one of those fighters was making his pro debut. It’s easy to see why LesPierre is being seen as a massive underdog, but crazier things have happened in boxing but a win over Hooker would definitely be an “Upset of the Year” contender by the end of this year.

Tale of the Tape: Dmitry Bivol vs. Joe Smith Jr.

Dmitry Bivol:

Record: 15-0 (11 KO)

Age: 28

Height: 6’0”

Notable Wins: Jean Pascal, Sullivan Barrera

Titles Won: WBA Light Heavyweight title

Joe Smith Jr.:

Record: 24-2 (20 KO)

Age: 29

Height: 6’0”

Notable Wins: Bernard Hopkins, Andrzej Fonfara

Titles Won: WBC International Light Heavyweight title

Tale of the Tape: Maurice Hooker vs. Mikkel LesPierre

Maurice Hooker:

Record: 25-0-3 (17 KO)

Age: 29

Height: 5’11”

Reach: 80”

Notable Wins: Alex Saucedo, Terry Flanagan

Titles Won: WBO Junior Welterweight title

Mikkel LesPierre:

Record: 21-0-1 (10 KO)

Age: 34

Height: 5’8”

Notable Wins: N/A

Titles Won: WBC FECARBOX Junior Welterweight, WBC USNBC Junior Welterweight titles

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