Joe Smith Jr.'s style does not change fight-to-fight; he fights face-first with a steady diet of pressure and volume. That turned out to be the perfect recipe to knock out Eleider Alvarez in the light heavyweight main event of Top Rank's card from "the bubble" in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Smith came out from the first round pushing the pace, keeping Alvarez from getting comfortable and throwing with enough volume to force Alvarez into an old bad habit of simply not letting enough punches go. As Smith threw shot after shot, Alvarez only rarely sat down on his dangerous right hand.
With the rounds ticking by, Smith appeared to be building up a big lead on the scorecards as well as in the punch stats. Alvarez stumbled Smith briefly in Round 7 with a clean right hand, but it wasn't enough to truly back down Smith and he continued to play bully until the final round of the fight.
Smith landed a cracking right hand followed by a power jab that sent Alvarez tumbling backward and through the ropes in the ninth round. The moment brought to mind Smith's 2016 win over Bernard Hopkins, where Smith sent Hopkins through the ropes and into retirement. Alvarez attempted to beat the count but couldn't make it to his feet before the referee completed the 10 count at the 0:26 mark of Round 9.
"This one's a big one, man," Smith said after his victory. "I really needed it and I wanted to prove I'm not just a knockout guy. I've got the boxing ability, too, and I showed that, and then got the knockout."
The win sets Smith up for another shot at a world championship. He suffered a March 2019 loss to Dmitry Bivol in a battle for the WBA light heavyweight championship, but wins over Jesse Hart and now Alvarez have locked up a shot at the vacant WBO title for Smith.
"I'm going to be more prepared," Smith said of the coming opportunity. "I'm going to stay focused in the gym and work hard every day. I've got a lot more experience now, and I feel I'm ready for a second shot, and I'm going to bring it home."