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Joe Smith Jr 'ready' for Canelo after defending WBO light-heavyweight title against Steve Geffrard

Joe Smith Jr completed his first defence of the WBO light-heavyweight title by stopping Steve Geffrard in the ninth round; Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez has expressed interest in fighting Smith later this year, according to promoter Bob Arum

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WBO light-heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr retained his title with a one-sided victory over late replacement Steve Geffrard in New York

Joe Smith Jr moved closer to a potential showdown with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez after defending his WBO light-heavyweight title with a ninth-round stoppage against Steve Geffrard.

Smith sent underdog Geffrard to the canvas 25 seconds into the ninth round at Verona, New York, prompting referee Mark Nelson to halt the action and confirm the 32-year-old's first defence of the belt.

"I want to get back in the gym, work on my craft, and like I say each and every time I get in the ring, I'm going to get better and better," said Smith. "I believe the next time you see me, I'll be ready for anybody.

"If Canelo wants to come and fight me, I'm ready for him. That's the fight I want. Everybody would love to see that fight - it would be a big deal."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez
Image: Smith Jr says he is ready to fight Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez

Promoter Bob Arum is talking up Smith's prospects of facing either Alvarez or undefeated IBF and WBC champion Artur Beterbiev later this year, saying: "Canelo has expressed interest to me about fighting Beterbiev or Smith Jr.

"I would look forward to May or September, the two dates that Canelo likes to fight, that he would fight one of those light-heavyweights."

Long Island fighter Smith, who claimed the belt nine months ago by defeating Maxim Vlasov, eventually halted an 18-fight winning streak for Geffrard - a late replacement for Callum Johnson after the Briton tested positive for Covid-19.

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Geffrard began well, soaking up the pressure and the champion was unable to make much progress until the fifth round, when he landed a right hand that appeared to hurt his opponent.

Joe Smith Jr celebrates his WBO light-heavyweight title defence against Steve Geffrard (Getty Images)
Image: Smith's record now reads 28 wins from 31 fights after his stoppage victory against Geffrard

Smith gradually took control as the contest moved past the halfway stage, rocking Geffrard with an uppercut and a powerful flush right in the seventh.

Two left hooks in the next round forced Geffrard back and the ninth opened with a barrage of blows as the tiring challenger sank to one knee in a neutral corner, with his trainer Kevin Cunningham calling for the stoppage.

"He really brought it today," added Smith, who took his record to 28 wins from 31 fights. "It was a great fight. He's a great boxer, a good survivor.

"I was trying to get him out of there early, but I realised he was very tough and I wasn't able to do that. I tried to wait until the later rounds and started throwing more combinations to pick him apart."

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