Light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr., who fought valiantly with a broken jaw for eight-plus rounds in a 10-round decision loss to Sullivan Barrera on Saturday night, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the injury.
Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia told ESPN that the jaw had a “clean break” but that it was in a different area than where Smith suffered a broken jaw in his only other defeat, a fourth-round knockout to Eddie Caminero in 2010.
Smith had the surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, New York, not far from Smith’s Long Island home. His jaw will be wired shut for about five weeks, DeGuardia said.
“Then they’ll see how he’s doing and how he is healing and the doctor can make a decision on how long he will be out,” DeGuardia said. “Joe is in a lot of pain. We just want him to heal up and take care of himself. That he was able to fight with that kind of injury really says a lot about his inner character.
“It’s heartbreaking for us, but the flip side of this is one of the reasons we’re always so proud of our athletes in the sport. He makes you proud.”
Smith (23-2, 19 KOs) scored a first-round knockdown with a powerful left hand against Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) but showed virtually nothing for the rest of the fight, which he lost by scores of 97-92, 97-92 and 96-93 on the undercard of the junior lightweight world title fight between Miguel Berchelt and Takashi Miura at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The broken jaw slowed him down and was injured even before the fight. DeGuardia said Smith suffered what he thought was a badly bruised jaw in his final sparring session before the fight. He underwent X-rays at the time and was told there was no break.
“He thought it was broken in sparring. I hate to think that he was right,” DeGuardia said. “Any time you get a significant break there’s always concerns, but typically this would not be a career-ending injury. But it’s tough. He’ll get a rest now.”
Smith, a 27-year-old construction worker, came out of nowhere in a big 2016 in which he shot to title contention by scoring an upset first-round knockout of contender Andrzej Fonfara in June and followed with a huge victory against legendary Bernard Hopkins in December also at The Forum, where Smith knocked Hopkins out of the ring in an eighth-round knockout victory that sent the future Hall of Famer into retirement.