Heavy-handed New Yorker Joe Smith Jr. will combat Russian Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO light-heavyweight crown on February 13.
Smith, who ended the career of Bernard Hopkins in December 2016, has enjoyed a career renaissance in 2020 with victories over Jesse Hart (W10) and former champion Eleider Alvarez (WTKO9).
After his triumph over Alvarez in August, Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) was scheduled to face the winner of Maxim Vlasov vs Umar Salamov for the vacant WBO 175lbs crown. However, after two postponements of Vlasov-Salamov (the second after Salamov tested positive for Covid-19 in November), Smith’s promoter Joe DeGuardia successfully petitioned for his man to meet Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) for the vacant title.
Now former WBA title challenger Smith, an American Union labourer by day, will have the chance to complete his improbable journey from the building site to world championship glory.
“Joe Smith Jr. is one of the hardest working men in boxing. He is the epitome of the working-class hero,” said DeGuardia. “It is truly a different experience watching Joe fight – he has hammers in both fists and, at a moment’s notice, can end a fight. He has vastly improved his boxing ability and I believe he has become the top guy in the division. I am very confident that the ‘Common Man’, Joe Smith Jr. will be the world champion. Kudos to the WBO for recognizing Joe’s talents and mandating this fight.”
Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.