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  Jesse Smith vs. Joe Smith Jr.
Teleconference Transcript


Two of the light heavyweight division's biggest punchers, Jesse "Hollywood" Hart and Joe Smith Jr., are prepared for a toe-to-toe battle in a 10-rounder Saturday evening (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from the Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

Hart, Smith, Top Rank president Todd duBoef and Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuardia (Smith's promoter) hosted a conference call Tuesday to kick off fight week. This is what they had to say.

duBoef

When we announced the fight and did our {2020 kickoff press conference} in New York in December, I got up at the press conference there, and there was a lot of tension between these two guys. So I think one writer came to me and said, ďYou know, I was really excited for this fight.Ē I was kind of excited. I wasnít sure what was going to come of it, but after the press conference and seeing both the passion and the determination Jesse and Joe have towards this match, and really where they are in a hot division that is rich with great fighters and obviously great punchers, it came true to form in their press conference style. Itís an exciting way to start off the year. Nothing like starting it out with big punchers. Iíd like to introduce Joe DeGuardia, who is a long-time friend and business partner of Top Rank, who has developed and guided Joe Smithís career. Let him make a couple comments, and then weíll open this up to all of you guys to ask questions.

DeGuardia

Thank you very much, Todd. I want to thank you guys. Itís always a pleasure working with Top Rank and you and Bob. Iím looking forward to another thrilling night of ESPN action thatís being provided. This Saturday night, Iím thrilled to have Joe Smith Jr. headlining the card. I canít wait to see Jesse Hart and Joe Smith. As you mentioned, these are two of the hardest-punching light heavyweights in the game, in a division thatís stacked with talent, and both of these guys have over 40 knockouts between them. They are really fighting each other for another world championship opportunity. Two guys are world title challengers fighting each other for another shot. I always love watching Joe Smith Jr. fight. Heís so exciting, and I know heís bringing down carloads of fans that are going to be in Atlantic City to watch him. Working class people coming down to see a true working man fight. And I am really looking forward to this fight, really looking forward to Saturday night, and I think the fans are in for a treat.

Jesse Hart

The fight is beyond likeÖ Iím not looking at whatís next. Iím not looking at a world title challenge next. With this fight starting off the year, itís been rough on me since 2016 since that Joe Smith-Bernard Hopkins fight happened. Iím not looking at nothing else. This is, like I said at the press conference, is not business. This is not business. This is not for bragging rights neither. This is something that my family put on me. This fight is more of a family thing. With family, itís personal. Thatís family, so at the end of the day, for me on my end, this is for my family. This is not only for myself. This is my family. This is my big brother, Bernard Hopkins. January 11th is so close. You know, itís time. Trainingís been going good. No injuries. Everything is really, really great. Everything just went good this training camp. I think Iíve been more focused than Iíve ever been because once something becomes personal, aside from business, it doesnít matter about the politics of it. It doesn't matter about the ratings or none of that. This is, like I said, itís probably business for him, probably just another fight. For me, itís not. I donít look at whatís next. When I asked Todd duBoef, Bob Arum and Carl Moretti for this fight, I looked at it from this is something I had to do for myself. So January 11th is close, so like I said, Iím in the best condition I can be in. Iím prepared. Weíll see what happens January 11th.

Joe Smith Jr.

Training camp went well. Itís one of my best camps so far. Definitely in my best shape ever, and I know I have a lot to prove. Iím looking at this fight as a chance to get myself out there again, to show that I belong in title fights. Iím looking to prove that, so I want to put on a great show for the fans, and hopefully get a title shot or something else big after this. Itís always personal with me as well. Personal for me, and Iím also fighting for my family and other things. I want to better my life, and the way to do it is by getting in there, putting on a great show and moving forward with my career.

Q:

Joe, when you hear Jesse talk about his mentality of not caring about getting a title fight, or not using this as a springboard for a bigger fight, but just wanting to avenge the loss that his mentor and friend Bernard Hopkins took against you, what do you think about that? Itís kind of an unusual circumstance, it seems to me, in a significant boxing event.

Smith

Yeah, I mean, I donít really understand it. I understand it to a point, I guess, but either way, heís still in it to prove himself and do what he has to do.

Q:

When they said he wanted to fight you, did you know what the reason was at that time, or you didnít know that until he said what he said at the press conference?

Smith:

I was told that was the reason.

Q:

And when they told you that, what was your initial reaction?

Smith:

I mean, if thatís what he feels heís fighting for, good for him. I mean, but me, Iím fighting to become a world champion.

Q:

Jesse, you mentioned of course how this is a more personal bout. Has there been a target on Joeís back since that 2016 fight? Describe your emotions when you saw your big brother go down like that.

Hart:
It definitely put a target on Joeís back. I was just at the right time. Timingís everything. When I saw that, I was really really hurt because like how Todd just explained it. He was the poster boy, but he inspired me, he inspired the little kids to be great, not to be average, not to be good, but to be great. And itís very hard to do that in the poverty-stricken area of North Philly that we come from. My father {Eugene ďCycloneĒ Hart}, he was there, but he never got the chance to fight for a world title so my dad would look at Bernard like, ďThatís how itís supposed to be done. This is how itís supposed to be.Ē

My dad is Cyclone Hart, but heís my coach. My dad is telling me he did it right, how Bernard handled things. How he takes care of his body, how he fights, how he models himself. What he came from, just because you come from the poverty-stricken area of North Philly doesnít mean you lay down. It doesnít mean you stop fighting. So when you got that, and then at 9 years old, Bernard Hopkins was calling my father, and they would have talks. My dad would put Bernard on the phone with me, and he would always encourage me. ďItís time to get in the gym. You gotta start running another mile, Jesse.Ē These are the things Bernard told me. That inspiration. Weíre all inspired by somebody, whoever it may be. When I was a little boy, that was my inspiration. Thatís the guy that I model. Thatís the guy who, in 2022, theyíre gonna build a statue of Bernard in North Philadelphia for all the things he accomplished. What he came from, and he didnít lay down. So thatís the thing that inspires me.

Q:
Joe, describe what it would do for your career to bounce back from the Dmitry Bivol loss and take out a top fighter like Jesse Hart. What will that mean for your career?

Smith:

It will mean a lot. I believe it will prove I belong with the top guys in the division, and I believe I can get another title shot out of it.

Q:

Jesse, how much more confident do you come into this fight knowing you pretty much dominated Sullivan Barrera and knowing he pretty much dominated Joe?

Hart:

Fighters adapt. Iím coming in confident.

I might not fight the way I fought Sullivan Barrera. Who knows? I might step to Joe. I might go blow for blow. We both got power. Thatís what I wanna do. I donít know what nobody else thinks about this but this a fight. If you listen to Todd duBoef when he talks about how the fight got madeÖ Jesse called and asked for Joe Smith. This wasnít about rankings, this wasnít about politics. This wasnít about I gotta fight this guy to take a step further to be line for a title shot. This wasnít about none of that.This was simply, ďYo, see if we can get Joe Smith.Ē So that mentality Iím taking in there. Letís go. Letís fight. Itís a fight. Itís not a boxing match. Itís none of that. Itís not strategic. It wasnít strategically planned. The strategy would be to fight Eleider Alvarez because, you know, no, thatís out the window. Get Joe Smith on the line, thatís who I want to fight. Please, can yíall make it happen?

He lost to a guy I beat, but Iím not gonna fight like that come January 11th. You might get me to step to Joe. We might see Joe get floored. We donít know.
Q:

Joe, is there motivation that maybe you have something left to prove after the losses to Dmitry and Sullivan? Do you kinda feel like youíre being overlooked, not necessarily by Jesse but from other people maybe because you havenít had a lot of success ever since you beat Bernard Hopkins?

Smith:

Yeah, I definitely believe Iíve been overlooked. People always go back to the Barrera fight, but no one ever thinks about that I fought 10 rounds with a broken jaw in that fight and made it through the fight against a top contender with a broken jaw. Not many people do that. Thereís been a lot of fighters, after they get a little hair fracture, they quit. My jaw was completely broken on both sides in half and just hanging and I made it through that fight. So for me to do thatÖ. I won that fight in my view. With this fight hearing about how Jesse was inspired by Bernard Hopkins growing up, it gives me inspiration and it motivates me to put on a great show to inspire other people who are watching me. I want people to talk about me like Jesseís talking about Hopkins. So thatís my goal when I come out January 11th.

Q:

Jesse, obviously you spent years fighting at 168, and then you move up against Sullivan Barrera. From a physical standpoint or a boxing standpoint, how do you feel fighting at 175 as compared to when you were at super middleweight?

Hart:

I feel much more stronger. I believe my body is more mature. We were doing something in the gym yesterday, me and Bernard, we were doing some pullups and Bernard hit 25, straight from the door at {54} years old. I hit 35 and in the gym we do this thing called repetition workout. We do the pullups, and then we do pushups, and then we do the situps, all in one thing. So it was like with more weight on my body, itís evening out. As far as my upper body strength, itís all coming together at this time. Like I said, evening out like that at 168, my upper body might have been stronger but my legs couldnít handle that, or it was just Iím top heavy. I couldnít put that much weight on my legs because of the weight I had to be at 168. With this, the weight is much more evened out. Legs are strong, upper body is strong, everything is physically and mentally ready to go.

Q:

My question is for Joe, actually. Weíve heard on this media call about Hartís motivation being behind Hopkins. Can you elaborate by chance on your motivation for this fight, besides that itís a world title shot?

Smith:

Besides a world title shot, whatís my motivation? Like I was just saying a minute ago, to inspire others to get out there and give it their best and work hard every day.

Q:

Jesse, youíve spoken extensively about how this fight is about getting revenge for Bernard Hopkins. How important was it for you to have this fight take place in Atlantic City where pretty much all of Philadelphia can come out and raise up?

Hart:

That was very very important. I even wanted it in New York or Philadelphia. I mean, Philadelphia, New York or Atlantic City. They picked Atlantic City. Thatís neutral ground. Thatís not too far from New York and definitely not far from Philadelphia. That was very important because I want everybody to see the 10 rounds that take place with this fight. Again, that wasnít important to me because if the fight had to be in Joe Smith Jr.ís backyard, I would have showed up. Iím talking about inside his home or his backyard because itís that personal. There could have been no fans, just a bunch of dogs back there, and we still would have gotten it on. Thatís how personal this is to me.

Q:

Joe, I have a question for you. Obviously itís no secret you havenít been the most active fighter in recent years, especially coming off the win with Bernard Hopkins, itís just been basically one fight a year. What can you see that can help change that in 2020? Obviously aside from winning on Saturday night.

Smith:

Yeah, I have to get past Jesse Hart on Saturday night. You know I'm hoping to stay busy this year. I want to fight a few times. I want to make 2020 my year. Iím really looking forward to it.

Q:

Was there anything specific holding you back or is it just a matter of like searching for the best opportunities as opposed to staying active?

Smith:

The best opportunities and, after the Bivol fight, I wanted to take some time to clear my head, and I did that and took off the summer, and I came back and I've been feeling great since. I feel stronger and better than ever.

Q:

Jesse, obviously you want to snatch the win and thatís very important to you, but what would be personally the most satisfying way to get it. Would you want to get in there and do a Wilder-Breazeale first-round knockout or would you want an extended fight where youíre dominant? What would be your most satisfying way to win this fight?

Hart:

To win this fight in a dominating fashion, all the way around the board. From the first round to the last round is the plan now. I know thereís no quit in Joe. He showed that with Sullivan Barrera. He fought with a broken jaw. I want to dig down. I want to take Joe to that Ali-Frazier III type of knock-down, drag-out fight. Where Ali said it was the closest he was to death. I want to see if he quits then. Thatís how far I want to push Joe. I want to stay in there, and I want to see where itís at. I wanna see if heís going to quit then with me. I know what IĒm looking to do. I know Iím not looking to quit that night under no circumstances.

Q:

Joe, clearly this is an important fight for Hart to win and for the city and for himself, but is it a personal motivator to have two significant wins over notable Philly fighters?

Smith:

Yeah, definitely. Itís gonna be a great night for me. Iím looking to come out on top, but I would like to do it in fashion, wearing the common man boxing trunks and beating another Philly fighter that underestimated me. I donít see Jesse underestimating me, but being that he is a big fan of someone who did, and heís from PhillyÖ Iím just really looking forward to it. I want to put on a great show for everyone.



 

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