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 Story & Photos by John DiSanto


West Philadelphia road warrior, Dhafir Smith, 27-24-7, 4 KOs, heads back out on the road this week to face southpaw Tommy Karpency, 22-4-1, 14 KOs, and another set of officials potentially from Karpency's home-region. 

"I don't worry about the fighter," Smith said.  "I just worry about the judges. That's all I worry about, just getting a fair decision."

It seems to be the story of Smith's career, hitting the road, fighting in hostile territory, and doing his best to scratch out a victory. It hasn't been an easy road, as his record indicates, but this is business as usual for the fighter they call "No Fear".

"I won some big fights already, but I just don't get (key opportunities)," Smith said. "Umberto Savigne (L10). I beat Curtis Stevens, they robbed me (L10). The list goes on and on. I donít understand. I'm ready to fightÖ I'm ready to fight." 

Against Karpency, at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington, PA (about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh), Smith will try to win the vacant NABA-USA light heavyweight title, as well as his old PA state championship, which he lost to Anthony Caputo-Smith in 2013 by a close 10-round decision. 

"Well, I felt I never lost it," Smith said of his former 175-pound state belt. "Caputo-Smith is better than this guy really. Southpaws make me look bad. Thatís all Iím really worried about. And the judges. Iím not worried about him. Iíve been in camp with like eight world champions, and did great with them. So you think Iím worried about Tommy Karpency?" 

Smith has trained with top champions like Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward, Arthur Abraham, Lucian Bute, Adonis Stevenson, Bernard Hopkins, and most recently Sakio Bika. 

"I feel as though I can get in there with any top fighter in the world," Smith said. "I just came back from camp with Sakio Bika. After this fight, Iím going back out there (to Bika's St. Louis training camp). Iím not worried about no Tommy Karpency." 

When pressed to discuss his opponent, Smith doesn't pull any punches.  

"Nothing special," Smith said about Karpency. "The only notable win he got is Chucky Mussachio. Heís really not that good. I donít know how he got 22 wins. Heís slow. He tries to box a little bit, and he tries to brawl. Slow! He gets tired quick. I plan on boxing for the first two rounds, first three, and after that itís going to be steady pressure." 

Putting on the pressure would be a good move for Smith, who sometimes gets passive along the ropes, happy to subtly slip punches, while his opponent scores aggression points and sways the judges.

"Heís got to push himself a little harder because he's getting older," said Smith's trainer Percy "Buster" Custus, of West Philadelphiaís Shuler Boxing Gym. "He got to go a little further than he usually goes. We fighting in somebodyís back yard. So he really got to turn it up. He ainít got to do a lot. He just got to stay smart Ė stay off the ropes, stay in the middle of the ring, and throw a stiffer quality of punches Ė and I think heíll beat this guy." 

Smith has plenty of ability, especially a potent left jab. But after 58 pro fights, he's still fighting for a career-changing opportunity. One that just never seems to come. After his biggest win, a decision over former champ Jeff Lacy, Smith dropped three straight bouts and lost whatever momentum he gained with the upset.

That's the Dhafir Smith story. 

But Smith just keeps fighting to keep his dream alive. He can earn a nice living as a professional sparring partner against the best fighters in the world, but he still dreams of becoming one of them. 

So Dhafir Smith pushes on, hoping to score the win that will vault him into an important fight where he can follow in the footsteps of Freddie Pendleton, or any other heavy underdog that eventually surprised everyone by proving he wasnít washed up. 

"Iím really hoping," Smith said. "I feel I can go in there with any top fighter in the world." 

So once again, Smith heads back out on the road for another fight, and yet another chance to prove he's more than an opponent. 




John DiSanto - West Philly - July 23, 2014