By Jon Uddin
It took a while, but we have finally got here. Joe Smith Jr. (26-3-0, 21KO) who fell short in his WBA Light-Heavyweight title shot against Dmitry Bivol in 2019, gets a shot at the currently vacant WBO strap, previously held by Canelo Alvarez.
The 31 year old Long Island native will face Maxim Vlasov, 34, of Samara, Russia. Vlasov (45-3-0, 26KO) is a solid vet who has had success from the Middleweight division all the way up to Cruiserweight. Vlasov moved back down to light heavyweight where his most recent fights have taken place, reeling off three straight wins against Omar Garcia, Isaac Chilemba, and a ten round unanimous decision win over Emmanuel Martey in his last bout in September of 2019.
Smith and Vlasov were set to square off in February in Top Ranks bubble in Las Vegas but Vlasov tested positive for Covid-19 just days before the bout. Ironic enough, the two fighters are now the first fight for Top Rank outside the bubble in front of a crowd of around 800 people.
Some wrote Smith off after his lopsided loss to Bivol, but, true to his blue collar nature Smith kept his nose to the grind and when he got his next opportunity against Jesse Hart he took advantage earning a split decision against the Philadelphia native. That win was followed up seven months later with an explosive knockout over Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez. That knockout put him in the current position of challenging for the WBO Light Heavyweight title. This fight takes place at the Osage Casino in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A potential showdown with light Heavyweight titan Artur Beterbiev awaits the winner.
Where To Watch: ESPN, 10pm ET/7pm PT
Know The Odds: Joe Smith Jr enters as the betting favorite at -350 while Maxim Vlasov sits at +265 (lines by Bovada)