Two-weight world champion turned boxing analyst Timothy Bradley believes the big-punching Joe Smith has the necessary firepower to down former cruiserweight Maxim Vlasov in their vacant WBO light-heavyweight title fight at the Osage Casino in Tulsa this weekend.

New Yorker Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) is a noted banger, having stopped Bernard Hopkins, Eleider Alvarez and Andrzej Fonfara in a creditable career that has yet to be rewarded with a world title. The bout with the seasoned Vlasov was cancelled in February after the Russian tested positive for Covid-19, but now Smith is only two days away from a second world title tilt, having lost a decision to WBA king Dmitry Bivol in March 2019. 

Smith’s boxing acumen has developed since that loss with two excellent wins over Jesse Hart (W10) and Alvarez (WTKO9), and Bradley believes he will continue that run against the canny Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs).

“It’s going to boil down to each fighter’s gameplan and how well they execute. Smith is going to have to break Vlasov down,” Bradley told ESPN.com. “Despite his experience at a heavier weight, Vlasov is not a huge power puncher. He’s not nothing, though – Vlasov has respectable power and, if he catches you with something that you don’t see, he could probably hurt you.

“But Smith was in there with Alvarez, who can really punch, and he was able to take Alvarez’s best. Alvarez couldn’t handle Smith’s best – that right hand – and eventually Smith stopped him in the ninth round.

“I’ve seen Vlasov fight two different styles. I’ve seen him fight using counter-punching, outside movement. And then in some fights, I’ve also seen him being really aggressive, trying to overwhelm his opponents with his offence, his quick hands and footwork, getting in and out. I’m curious to see what type of gameplan he’s going to apply in this fight, and I’m sure it could be a mixture of the two.

“I believe Vlasov is going to start off boxing, because we’ve seen Smith get outboxed against Bivol and [Sullivan] Barrera. But the biggest question for Vlasov is whether or not he has the punching power to deter the stronger, more physical Smith from coming forward with brute force. If he does show that, then he’ll be in the fight. But just looking at his history to this point, I don’t think he has the punching power to stop the freight train of Smith.

“Both guys are really going to put it out there and fans are going to be very entertained with this fight, because both fighters understand this is an opportunity that might not come around again. Vlasov believes he can outbox Smith. Smith thinks he’s going to knock Vlasov out.

“It’s going to boil down to Vlasov’s ability to slow Smith down and check his power, and I don’t think Vlasov has the punching power to hurt Smith. I think Smith, sooner or later, is going to break Vlasov down to the body. Smith is a lot more physical and stronger on the inside. Vlasov likes to dictate things on the outside. Smith’s going to cut the distance and eventually I think he’s going to catch Vlasov, he’s going to hurt him and he’s going to get him out of there. I don’t think this fight goes beyond 10 rounds.”

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