Callum Johnson is out of his world title challenge against Joe Smith Jr on January 15.

The British light-heavyweight was all set to face the American for his WBO belt at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York but has withdrew having caught Covid. A replacement opponent has apparently been found however at short notice for Smith’s first defence of the title he won against Maxim Vlasov in April last year.

“I found out yesterday,” Johnson’s promoter Frank Warren told Boxing Social earlier today. “There was Covid in the family and then he told us, and he was having to isolate but then what happened was he went down with it. I’m gutted for Callum he’s trained very hard,” Warren said earlier today.

“He’s got Covid, he’s out of the fight against Joe Smith. Joe Smith has got another opponent which they’ll announce but after that his next fight will be against Callum if they want to do that or his mandatory Anthony Yarde.

“Whatever way it is one of our guys will fight him. If he won’t give Callum the chance after the postponement, I think Anthony’s got the beating of him [Smith Jr] on his day anyway.”

Smith himself tested positive for Covid in 2021 prior to what would have been his maiden title defence against Umar Salamov at the Hulu Theatre, Madison Square Garden back in October.

At time of writing the current WBO rankings have Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) at number five while Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) now sits in the number one position having impressively taken it from Lyndon Arthur in their rematch last month. The Londoner, who will return to the ring before Spring, will hope to land a shot at Smith Jr later this year.

Smith Jr v Johnson was officially announced two days before Yarde’s last win and was to provide a second world title opportunity for the 36-year-old challenger. The heavy-handed Boston (UK) fighter took on Artur Beterbiev over three years ago in Chicago in an action-packed fight that only lasted four rounds. Despite dropping the formidable Russian in the round two. However, he was unable to finish the job and was knocked out two rounds later.

“Joe is a good world champion, and we’re both big punchers. I’m looking forward to it as much as I’m sure he will be,” Johnson said in the press release to announce their January 15 fight. “It’s time for me to do my job in the ring and become the new WBO light heavyweight champion.”

Johnson rejoined Frank Warren and his team at Queensbury Promotions in February last year. Since then, he has racked up two wins from two fights against Emil Markic and Server Emurlaev respectively.