Joe Smith Jr. graduated from William Floyd High School in 2007. He began boxing at age 13, going to local gyms after school to work on his craft, with the goal of one day becoming a world champion.
Smith balanced his school work with his boxing, helping him build up a very respectable amateur career. He competed in numerous amateur tournaments as a teenager, becoming a three-time Junior Olympic Champion in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He competed in and won the Empire State Games in 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as the New York Metro Boxing Championship in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The most significant moment of his amateur career came when he became a New York Golden Gloves Champion in 2008, just a few weeks after the birth of his daughter.
Smith made his professional boxing debut on October 31, 2009, winning via technical knockout. He would continue to climb the ranks of the light heavyweight division, winning his first 21 of 22 fights.
Smith made his national television debut on June 18, 2016 on NBC in the main event against top-ranked light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago. He went into the fight as a massive underdog, with no boxing writer or fan giving him any real shot of winning. He would silence his critics immediately as he defeated Fonfara via first-round technical knockout. The victory won Smith the WBC International Light Heavyweight Championship, as well as catapulted him toward the top of the division.
Six months later, Smith was challenged by future Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins to be the opponent in his farewell fight on December 17, 2016 on HBO. Smith accepted the challenge and spoiled Hopkins’ farewell fight by sending him through the ropes and into retirement, winning via technical knockout.
Smith is scheduled to fight fellow light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol for the WBA World Light Heavyweight Championship on March 9.