When a professional athlete looks at the horizon sometimes he can see the end of the road. How he reacts could sometimes define his career. Long Island blue collar hero Joe Smith Jr drove through that road and continues to roll on after trouncing Jesse Hart of Philadelphia, PA over ten rounds. A loss by Smith would have regulated him to an “opponent,” a status no boxer craves. Inside the ring at the Mark G Etess Arena in Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino bouncing on his toes was Smith before the opening bell. Across the way, Jesse Hart of Philadelphia, PA must have seen Smith’s determined stare.
Both approached the center of the squared circle as referee Harvey Dock blah, blah, blah gave rules of engagement before the ritualistic tapping of the gloves between the parties, before returning to their corners. Once the ding to commensurate the action sounded, Smith methodical walked right at Hart, 175 lbs, swinging wildly. He went on to never stop swinging haymakers over the course of the next thirty minutes. Dancing on his toes, Hart’s efforts to create space were fruitless.
Both camps had brought many followers to the “City by the Sea”. A nearly sold out arena roared with their approval for every punch thrown.
Taking no aim firing his bombs, Smith, 174.6 lbs., unloaded his cannon in the general vicinity of Hart. Giving away too much strength, Hart could not fend off Smith. Moving straight forward, Smith had Hart backing up and fighting on his heels all night. Back peddling, Hart clinched when Smith drew near. This tactic did not prevent Smith from hurting Hart to the body in round two. Matters had gotten worse during the session when he was staggered by Smith chopping blows to the head.
During the first four rounds, all Hart could do was clinch and run to avoid a thrashing. During those first twelve minutes, Smith repeatedly buzzed Hart, scoring power punches to the top of the head.
Obvious to all by round five, this was a fight and boxing was not about to change the outcome. Hart began to better his position and stood his ground scoring solidly for the first time. Lacking the pop to fend off his foe, Hart still resorted to grabbing and holding.
Then the inevitable happened in round seven when Hart uncorked an overhand right that hit Hart on the chin. After absorbing the shot, Hart hit the deck. Getting to his feet Hart was still hurting when the session ended.
Smith never relented down the stretch. Both combatants were in tip top shape, slugging it out until the end. A headbutt in round nine spewed blood from Hart’s left eye.
No one doubted that Smith won except for inept Judge James Kinney, who scored it 95-94 for Hart, depriving Smith of the unanimous decision he earned. Joe Pasquale scored it 98-91 and Eugene Grant scored it 97-92 for Smith.
Hart’s record falls to 26-3 (21 ko’s). A win or two down the road and he will be back on track. Smith had more to lose going into the match. A loss would have sent Smith back to his day job as a union laborer with a fading dream of pugilistic glory. Instead of being a one hit wonder or the lottery winner who defeated a faded Bernard Hopkins, Smith is now 25-3 (20 Ko’s) and a world ranked light heavyweight.
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