The locally popular Smith gained notoriety after a shocking first-round knockout victory over then-title contender Andrezj Fonfara in June of 2016, who entered as a -2500 favorite in multiple sports books.
Smith only soared in popularity after stunning the legendary Bernard Hopkins six months later, knocking the 50-year-old out of the ring entirely in the eighth round of their encounter.
Smith went 1-2 over the next three years before dominating Hart on Saturday, even scoring a knockdown in round seven. Smith scored a split decision win, with wide tallies of 98-91 and 97-92 in his favor, with a questionable 95-94 favoring Hart, Hopkins’ former protégé.
“I knew no matter how hard I got hit, I just had to stay busy,” Smith said. “That's what I did tonight, and I am coming home with the win. I got two Philly guys now and it feels great.”
Smith, who now has 25 career wins, believes a big fight is in his future later this year.
“This win means everything for me, I had to make a statement that I belong at this level,” he said. “I thought I had him a few times. He was a little slippery and he tied me up well.
My career was on the line,” Smith added. “I had to come here and prove I belong.”
After the loss, Hart cited an injury that hindered his performance.
“I hurt my right hand a week ago in my last sparring session and thought I could overcome that,” he said. “I don't want to make excuses because Joe fought a great fight.”
Bob Arum, who runs Top Rank Boxing and promotes Hart, singled out James Kinney’s 95-94 score in favor of his fighter in a post-bout rant that evening.
“That judge should be banned from scoring a fight, and I promote Hart,” an annoyed Arum said. "How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”