The first defence of Joe Smith Jr’s WBO light-heavyweight title is set to go ahead later this year.
ESPN have reported that contracts have been signed for the New Yorker to defend his belt against Russia’s Umar Salamov.
The Top Rank event is expected to take place in October or November with the Madison Square Garden Theatre in the Big Apple the likely location. Smith Jr won the vacant title in April defeating Salamov’s compatriot Maxim Vlasov in a hard-fought affair. Despite reports suggesting that Smith Jr may unify the division against WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev it appears that Salamov, the WBO number three contender, will step up to the plate.
“I think it’s the perfect place for Joe to make his first world-title defence. We’d certainly pack it, that’s for sure,” Smith’s co-promoter Joe DeGuardia told ESPN.
Last month rumours began circling that Smith Jr would take part in a two-fight deal at Madison Square Garden culminating in a fight against former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs at the main venue. But first the blue-collar light heavy has to deal with Salamov who is unbeaten in four years after dropping a ten-round points decision to Damien Hooper in Brisbane, Australia.