Hart vs Smith: Time, odds and preview

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Lee Cleveland Updated
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Tonight, light heavyweight powerbrokers Jesse Hart (26-2, 21 KO) and Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20 KO) will clash in a bout to determine who'll remain among the division's elite.

The winner will likely get another title shot within the next 6-18 months while the loser will be relegated to fringe contender status for the time being.

Hart vs Smith will take place at Hard Rock Hotel in Atlantic City and will be televised on ESPN. The fight is scheduled for 10 rounds and the expected ring walk time is 11PM ET.

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Saturday, January 11
Jesse Hart vs Joe Smith, Jr
light heavyweights
Atlantic City, N.J.
Watch on ESPN/ESPN Deportes
Time: 10PM ET
Expected ring walk time 11PM ET 
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No, these fellas don't have as much juice as Sergey Kovalev, Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev nor are they as well known. However, Hart vs Smith is nothing less than intriguing... And the winner's stock will surge.

WBO Light Heavyweight Title
And keep in mind, Canelo Alvarez recently vacated his WBO Light Heavyweight title. Number one contender Gilberto Ramirez (40-0), a virtual lock to fight for that strap, is going to need an opponent.

Rankings
WBO: Hart No.3; Smith unranked
IBF: Hart No. 8; Smith unranked
WBC: Hart No. 8; Smith unranked
WBA: Hart No. 4; Smith unranked
THE RING: Hart No. 8; Smith unranked
BoxRec: Hart No.8; Smith No. 14

Hart vs Smith odds
Not surprisingly, Jesse Hart is the favorite. William Hill, SkyBet and betway have Hart at -500 while Smith sits at +333, +350 and +333, respectively.

Should a bettor accept SkyBet's lines (-500, +350), a winning $100 bet on the underdog would generate $350 while the same winning wager on Hart would net $50.

Question: If it's such an intriguing bout why aren't the Hart vs Smith odds closer?

Answer: Joe Smith, Jr who, in 2016, became the only fighter to knockout fight legend Bernard Hopkins, has lost 2 of 3 since then and both defeats, to Dmitry Bivol and Sullivan Barrera, were decisive points verdicts. Hart, on the other hand, has lost to only one man in his pro career,  40-0 Gilberto Ramirez. And both of his bouts with Ramirez were very close. Ramirez edged Jesse in 2017 via a unanimous decision and in the following year via a majority decision tilt.

And lastly, Hart defeated Barrera last year while Smith fell to the Cuban in 2017

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Most significant bouts

Jesse Hart

Won UD Sullivan Barrera
Jun 15, 2019

Lost MD 12 Gilberto Ramirez
Dec 14, 2018

Lost UD 12 Gilberto Ramirez
Sep 22, 2017

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Joe Smith, Jr

Lost UD 12 Dmitry Biviol
Mar 9, 2019

Lost UD 10 Sullivan Barrera
Jul 15, 2017

Won KO 8 Bernard Hopkins
Dec 17, 2016

Won TKO 1 Andrzej Fonfara
Jun 18, 2016

Question: So, what makes Hart vs Smith intriguing if the former is such a healthy favorite?

Answer: Joe Smith's punching power, as B-HOP would certainly attest, and durability. He has the explosiveness to change the fight in a heartbeat and is tough enough to weather ring storms.

And since a now-meaningless loss over 9 years ago in his seventh pro fight, Smith is 18-2, 15 KO and has only been defeated by elite-level opponents, Bivol and Barrera.

Smith is not a polished stick-and-move boxer but his power and durability are elite level. And Hart, arguably, has never faced a foe as explosive as Smith.

Consensus
The odds say Hart will avoid Smith's powerstuff or will be savvy enough to weather the storm should he get hurt. Hence, the safe, conservative bet is Hart via UD 10. He's taller and rangier than Smith and boasts a bit more ring finesse and natural boxing ability. And let's not forget that Jesse has a 75 percent KO ratio and is a knockout threat himself.

Smith's power and ability to find openings makes it interesting. Barring a serious injury, he'll be a threat until the final bell. He floored the everso-crafty Sullivan Barrera in the opening round of their bout 2 1/2 years ago and fought Rounds 3-10 with a broken jaw.

The odds don't tell the entire story. Hart vs Smith is a quality match-up.

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