Joe Smith Jr. pummels Eleider Alvarez, collects ninth-round knockout

In what was supposed to be a competitive fight, Joe Smith Jr. overwhelmed Eleider Alvarez and stopped him in the ninth.

Joe Smith Jr. made a statement in the light heavyweight division with one of his finest performances, an impressive ninth-round knockout of Eleider Alvarez in a WBO title eliminator at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday.

The fight was expected to be a competitive showdown between the hard-hitting Smith and the technically sound Alvarez, but Smith never let his opponent into the fight. 

Instead, Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) swarmed Alvarez and wouldn't allow the former champion an opportunity to respond to the heavy punches he was absorbing. 

Alvarez (25-2) was patient — maybe a little too patient — early on and tried to pick his spots. Smith wasn’t interested in waiting for Alvarez to let his hands go. Instead, he powered forward and eventually became the first man to finish Alvarez.

The Colombian spent the first half of the fight watching and waiting for his opportunity to counter Smith, who routinely fired off combinations to outwork his opponent. 

Smith had an excellent fifth round and battered Alvarez with heavy power shots, including a hard right hand that would be a sign of things to come.

Alvarez finally came to life in the seventh round and caught Smith with an overhand right hand that buckled his legs. But Smith refused to show weakness and landed several punches to close the round and turn back any rallying opportunity. 

Smith closed the show in emphatic fashion in the ninth. He opened up with a straight right hand followed by a short left that put Alvarez down and through the ropes. Referee Tony Weeks began to count as Alvarez was sprawled on the ring apron. With Alvarez unable to beat the count, Smith collected another big knockout victory and put himself in line to face the winner of another title eliminator, this one between Umar Salamov and Maksim Vlasov. 

"Every time [Alvarez] hit me, I wanted to come and stop him in his tracks, and I did that. I stuck to my game plan, and it was a great fight," Smith said. "I feel this one is a big one. I really needed it. I wanted to prove I’m not just a knockout guy. I proved my boxing ability, too, and I showed that tonight."

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