Joe Smith Jr 2016 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year – Long Island, New York’s own Joe Smith Jr is your 2016 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.
Smith entered 2016 with a 20-1 record. His lone loss was behind him, way back in August of 2010 and he had put together a solid 14-fight winning streak fighting at places such as Huntington’s Paramount Theater and Manhattan’s BB King’s Blues Club and Grill.
It was in April that he fought his first fight of 2016, and he knocked out Fabiano Pena in the second round of their main event fight on a show promoted by Joe DeGuardia. Less than two months later Smith Jr’s career trajectory would take a major step up.
Smith Jr would land a fight against world-ranked Andrzej Fonfara on a Premier Boxing Champions event scheduled for June 18th in Chicago. Smith Jr entered the fight a major underdog and he would leave with a first round KO victory and Fonfara’s WBC International title.
The win catapulted Smith Jr onto the world stage, but for Smith Jr a lot would depend on what he did next. As with many first round KO’s, the word fluke was tossed around.
Smith and his promoters waited, and he was offered to be the farewell fight for legendary Bernard Hopkins, headlining the Inglewood Forum on Golden Boy’s last big card of 2016. Hopkins, a surefire Hall of Famer was looking for a final fight at 51-years-old and the shrewd Hopkins was credited with hand-picking Joe Smith Jr as an opponent so that he could go out with a win.
Through all the build-up Smith Jr stayed focused on the task at hand, and come fight time he stayed collected and cool. By the eighth round he had seen just about everything the aging Hopkins could throw at him and when he upped the pressure on Hopkins, he broke through and sent Hopkins off into retirement with his first stoppage loss of a nearly three-decade career.
Smith Jr faced Fonfara and Hopkins in situations where he was considered to be fodder for the plans of more developed fighters and both times the humble construction worker by day, fighter by night, got the job done.
Joe Smith Jr closes 2016 as the WBC’s International champion and as the #3 ranked 175-pounder in the world according to the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. With a 3-0 mark in 2016 against a major step-up in competition, Joe Smith Jr is your Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.
Joe Smith Jr 2016 Breakthrough Fighter / Check out more on Joe Smith Jr’s Breakthrough year at The Sweet Science.