The definition of toughness can generally be described as the state of being strong enough to withstand adverse conditions, the ability to deal with hardship or to cope in difficult situations.
On December 16, 2017, I witnessed all three.
On this night, at some point in the second round, Joe Smith Jr. (23-2 19 KO) knew something was wrong. He had after all, been down this road before when he sustained his first loss as a professional.
The jaw, the damn jaw. His own private Achilles heel hell.
He knew his jaw was fractured courtesy of his opponent that night, Sullivan Barrera (21-2 14 KO), but the blue collar lunch pail work ethic forged by years of construction work would not let him quit. It’s simply not in his DNA.
“Just quit on the stool, nobody will blame us, they’ll understand” said Smith Jr.’s jaw.
“Like hell we will” screamed Smith Jr.’s heart.
Smith Jr. made it to the final bell, eight rounds later, but was not himself throughout the fight. He had dropped Barrera in the first round with the hands of stone power but the pain sustained from the injury a round later no doubt affected his ability to execute his game plan.
“I truly gave it my all. Sullivan Barrera is a great, tough warrior. I have a lot of respect for what he did, I had a good first round. I dropped Barrera. I knew he would get back up, and he did. He came back strong, and he landed a few good shots from that point on. It was not going as planned, as you all saw. Somewhere during the second round, I was injured and was in a lot of pain, but I did not want to let it show, and I refused to quit, As the fight went on, it got much tougher for me, as the pain was just increasing more and more,” Smith Jr. said.
Said his promoter Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuardia-
“Joe knocked down Barrera hard in the first round, but in the second round, he sustained a broken jaw. It’s a similar injury to the one he suffered five years ago, and frankly, it’s amazing that he continued to valiantly fight over the next eight rounds and finish the fight.”
“We at Star Boxing are extremely proud of Joe for fighting this fight under such extreme conditions, as are all his fans who came to the fight from Long Island and those who watched on HBO. Joe Smith is a true warrior and epitomizes what a real fighter is supposed to be.”
No argument here.
A brief look back at the recent rise of a Common Man……..
By the end of 2016, the light heavyweight division had a new sheriff in town and his name was Joe Smith Jr.
The Long Island, New York native had two huge wins in the second half of 2016. In June, he was almost a 20-1 underdog when he blew out light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara in the first, capturing the WBC International light heavyweight strap. Punching power on full display.
Oh, and for an encore in December, nothing much, just lands a 4-5 punch combination and knocks the legendary Bernard Hopkins through the ropes, an 8th Round KO, or in this case, one rude retirement gift.
Quick game of Jeopardy da da da da……
“Boxing for $600 Alex”
“The only man ever to stop BHop”
“Who is Joe Smith Jr.?”
“Correct! For $600”
Smith Jr. is recovered and ready to roll on June 30 as he makes his return against Melvin Russell from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Smith Jr. surely is eager to get back at it in another installment of Slugfest At The Sun.
“I cannot wait to get back in the ring on June 30th,” he said via press release. “I have been looking forward to this day since I was told I needed surgery. I plan on showing why I am still one of the best in the light heavyweight division.” said Smith Jr.
“I believe he is the hardest hitting light heavyweight, and he proves it every time he is in the ring. I am very excited to have him back on June 30th at the beautiful Mohegan Sun Arena.”
Smith Jr. had every reason to quit the night of December 16, but that would have been against everything that built him. Toughness and a disciplined work ethic forged by years of waking up early just to work hard labor on construction job sites. Knocking down infrastructures with a sledge hammer, carting heavy debris to the dumpster, exerting physical labor all day.
His reward after clocking out for the day? A trip to the gym and hours of training, just to do it all over again the next day.
It’s toughness w/ mental discipline you can’t teach, you either possess it or you don’t.
Welcome back Smith Jr., the next steps in your journey await.
“When the sun rises
I wake up and chase my dreams
I won’t regret when the sun sets
Cause I live my life like I’m a beast
I’ma mothafucking beast”
—-Rob Bailey & The Hustle Standard