Top Rank is looking to kick off 2020 with what could be an absolute banger at light heavyweight. Bob Arum tells ESPN that “plans are being finalized” for a January 11th Atlantic City card headlined by Jesse Hart vs. Joe Smith Jr.
Hart (26-2, 21 KO) twice challenged Gilberto Ramirez for the WBO title during his time at super middleweight, giving a solid effort both times but coming away with unanimous decision losses. The second defeat prompted a move to 175, where he intended to debut against just-deposed champion Eleider Alvarez before “Storm” suffered a foot injury. He instead took on Sullivan Barrera, winning an ugly decision over the Cuban veteran.
Smith (24-3, 20 KO) had one of the more remarkable years of any fighter in recent memory back in 2016, starting with a shocking first-round upset of Andrzej Fonfara and continuing six months later with a demolition job of Bernard Hopkins. He’s since struggled to regain that form, going 1-2 with decision losses to Barrera and Dmitry Bivol.
Though neither of these two figure to pose a threat to the monsters lurking at the top of the division, this is an A+ matchup. Two technically limited but highly powerful and aggressive sluggers duking it out sounds like a perfect way to begin a fresh year of boxing.