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Joe Smith Jr. Earns WBO Title Shot by Knocking Out Eleider Alvarez

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

He’s had some tough detours, but it looks like Joe Smith Jr.’s (26-3, 21 KOs) path to a world title is back on track.

In tonight’s edition of Top Rank on ESPN, the native of Long Island, New York scored a ninth-round stoppage victory against former world champion Eleider Alvarez (25-2, 13 KOs) of Apartado, Colombia.

The fight headlined a full night of action that was streamed live on ESPN+ from the so-called “Bubble” at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Coming into this camp, I knew I had to work on my boxing,” said Joe Smith Jr. in his post-fight interview. “I wanted to throw straight punches. I watched the fight with [Sergey] Kovalev, and he set the way to beat him. So, we watched that and worked off of it.”

Indeed, that’s what he did as threw straight punches in aggressive fashion but also in a way that showed he was following a disciplined plan. By the fifth round, the plan was working, and it was clear that Alvarez was wearing down.

In Round 9, Smith Jr. landed a devastating right hand that initiated a fight-finishing flurry that forced the action to a halt.

Smith Jr. is now in line to fight for a world title. His first opportunity was against Dmitry Bivol, but he says his second opportunity will be different.

“I’m just going to be more prepared. I’m going to be more focused. I’m going to work hard in the gym. I’m ready for a second shot.”

Former world middleweight titlist Rob Brant (26-2, 18 KOs) of St. Paul, Minnesota scored a fifth-round technical knockout victory against Ukrainian contender Vitaliy Kopylenko (28-2, 16 KOs) in tonight’s co-main event.

Brant was very busy with his output, landing lots of shots to the head and body. Brant eventually caused severe swelling below Kopylenko’s eye, which forced referee Jay Nady to end the fight at the end of the fifth round.

Junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez (20-0, 13 KOs) of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey made quick work of Anthony Laureano (13-1, 4 KOs) of East Hartford, Connecticut by dropping him three times en route to a first-round stoppage.

Rodriguez was quick and sharp as he totally disregarded Laureano’s power by fighting toe-to-toe for most of the fight. Eventually, a series unanswered right hand left hands forced the referee to stop the fight.

Clay Collard (9-2-3, 4 KOs), a native of Burley, Idaho who grew very popular during the first installments of “The Bubble” after defeating several undefeated boxers, added another win to his record by scoring a second-round technical knockout victory against Maurice Williams (7-2, 3 KOs) in a middleweight bout initially slated for eight-rounds.

Collard dominated the native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in a bout in which he demonstrated his developing skills and his natural, brute strength.

What did you think of tonight’s action? Let us know in the comments section below.

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