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Joe Smith Ready for Vlasov…Again

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Joe Smith may be known as the ‘common man,’ but he hopes to become a world champion.

The hard-hitting Smith will face Maxim Vlasov Saturday night at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 12-round bout, with the vacant WBO light heavyweight title at stake, will air live on ESPN (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).

The clash between Smith and Vlasov was originally scheduled to take place on February 13, but was postponed a few days before the fight after Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19. 

Saturday’s clash is also a crossroads bout between two long-standing fighters of the division where the winner could land a fight later this year against WBC/ IBF unified titleholder Artur Beterbiev.

Smith (26-3, 21 knockouts), who resides in Long Island, New York, last fought on August 22, knocking out former world titleholder Eleider Alvarez in round 9. In his previous fight on January 11 of last year, Smith defeated Jesse Hart by split-decision. Both fights took place after losing by unanimous decision to WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol.

The 31-year-old scored the biggest win of his career in December 2016 by knocking out Bernard Hopkins in round 8. Hopkins was knocked through the ropes and fell off the ring canvas onto the floor. 

Smith is also known for owning a landscaping business, where he logs long hours before heading to the gym. It is also his blue-collar approach to the fight game that has allowed him to make more fans in the last couple of years. 

“I am extremely motivated after all I have been though in my career,” said Smith, who is co-promoted by Star Boxing and Top Rank. “I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I am confident I will bring the belt home on April 10 and move forward with my goal of unifying belts and proving I am the best light heavyweight in the world.”

Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs), who resides in Samara, Russia, has not fought since November 2019, defeating Emmanuel Martey over 10 one-sided rounds. The fight came over four months after defeating former world title challenger Isaac Chilemba by unanimous decision. 

The 34-year-old has won 15 of his last 16 bouts since losing by unanimous decision to Gilberto Ramirez in January 2015. 

Vlasov will have a significant height and reach advantage over Smith, but he is confident his experience and ring savviness will be also be factors in notching a win Saturday night. 

“I am ready to return to the ring and become the new WBO light heavyweight world champion,” said Vlasov, whose other losses were to Chilemba in February 2011 and to Krzysztof Glowacki in November 2018. “The postponement was a minor setback, but it will be worth the wait when I have that belt around my waist.”

In the co-feature, unbeaten heavyweight Efe Ajagba will square off against Brian Howard (15-4, 12 KOs) of Atlanta, Georgia in a 10-round bout.

Ajagba (14-0, 11 KOs), who is originally from Lagos, Nigeria and now resides in Houston, Texas, made his Top Rank in his last bout on September 19, defeating Jonathan Rice by unanimous decision. The 26-year-old has knockout victories over Amir Mansour, Michael Wallisch, and Iago Kiladze. 

Preliminary action will air on ESPN+ with unbeaten lightweight Albert Bell (17-0, 5 KOs), junior lightweight prospect Robson Conceicao (15-0, 7 KOs), and heavyweights Jared Anderson (8-0, 8 KOs), Trey Lippe (16-0, 16 KOs), and Jeremiah Milton (2-0, 2 KOs) in separate bouts. 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene since September 2012 and The Ring since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing

About Francisco Salazar

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