Joe Smith Claims Another Philly Skull in Jesse Hart

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Light Heavyweight contender Jesse Hart (26-3, 21 KOs) had revenge on his mind as he took center stage against Joe Smith Jr. (25-3, 20 KOs) at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City on Saturday, January 11, 2020. 

Hart had long viewed Smith Jr. as someone that he didn’t just want to face, but had to. 

Back in December of 2017, Smith Jr. knocked Bernard Hopkins out and essentially into retirement. Hart, a Philly native, took exception to that contest. As a youngster, Hart looked up to Hopkins, so it came as no surprise that Hart wanted redemption for the fallen legendary fighter.

Hart got his wish as the two were matched up. Hart spoke a good game, but this was only his second fight in the Light Heavyweight division. Smith Jr. on the other hand, was coming off a one-sided loss at the hands of champion Dmitry Bivol and wasn’t given much of a chance against Hart. 

When the opening bell rang, Smith Jr. seemed as though he wanted to prove a point. He pushed the action and had Hart in retreat mood all night long.

Several big shots landed for Smith Jr., which left Hart on unsteady legs. The difference in not only punching power, but just overall strength, was clear. Hart just couldn’t get the respect of his opponent no matter what he threw his way. 

For much of the contest, Hart simply tried to survive. He constantly clinched and did not want to engage at any point in the contest. With everything going in the favor of Smith Jr., he gained even more momentum when he dropped Hart in the seventh round. He managed to make it back to his feet, but he didn’t fight a very spirited contest. 

When the final bell rang to declare the fight over, many knew Smith Jr. had done more than enough to come out with the victory. Yet, in true boxing fashion, it was a split decision. One judge scored the bout 95-94 in favor of Hart, but was quickly overruled by the two remaining judges who scored it 98-91 and 97-92 for Smith Jr.

Although it was a terrific contest, even promoter Bob Arum couldn’t help but slam the judges for their incompetence yet again. 

“That judge should be banned from scoring a fight–and I promote Hart,” said Arum after the fight. “How can you even score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”

Regardless of the obvious error made by one of the judges, it was still a terrific contest. 

Final Grade For Jessie Hart: F 

Look, there’s no shame in losing to Joe Smith Jr., he’s a terrific fighter. But when you go on the sort of rant that Jesse Hart did about needing this fight and promising a knockout and then failing to deliver, you need to shoulder a ton of blame. 

As Hart made his way to the ring, he wore the legendary executioners mask that Bernard Hopkins wore to plenty of his most memorable fights.

The sort of performance that Hart put on tonight was downright pathetic and not worthy of the mask.

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