Two of the world’s top light heavyweight boxes will face off in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday night in the hopes of capturing their first major world titles as Joe Smith Jr. takes on Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO light heavyweight belt.
Vlasov has won his past three bouts, while Smith has won two straight after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Dmitry Bivol in a WBA title fight back in 2019.
Smith Reading for World Title, Honeymoon
For Smith (26-3 21 KOs), Saturday’s fight provides an opportunity to make a statement in the 175-pound division.
“Becoming world champion and hearing the words, ‘and new,’ it’s going to be an amazing feeling,” Smith told reporters. “This is everything I have been working for since I was 15 years old.”
Smith and Vlasov originally planned to fight in February. However, organizers postponed the bout after Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.
That news complicated matters for Smith, who had planned to get married soon after the fight.
|Smith vs. Vlasov Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
|Joe Smith Jr.: -400
|Maxim Vlasov: +280
|Method of Victory
|Smith by KO/TKO: -110
|Vlasov by KO/TKO: +750
|Smith by Decision: +250
|Vlasov by Decision: +500
“Thankfully, we were able to move forward with the wedding,” Smith told BoxingScene.com. “Right after the wedding, I went right back to training.”
That meant that Smith and his new wife didn’t get to celebrate much, something he plans to rectify after Saturday’s bout.
“I plan on going away right after the fight,” Smith said. “We’re doing our honeymoon as soon as this fight is over. Once we get back, the goal is to hunt down [Artur] Beterbiev and become a unified world champion.”
Russian Veteran Not Worried About Long Layoff
The 34-year-old Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) has plenty of minor title fight experience, and even fought for the interim WBO title back in 2018, losing by unanimous decision to Krzysztof Glowacki. Now, the veteran faces the biggest fight and the most lucrative opportunity of his career against Smith.
Vlasov hasn’t fought since November 2019. But the Russian says the long layoff shouldn’t be a problem for him on Saturday.
“I’m sure that you will see no ring rust at all this time,” Vlasov told reporters. “I’ve been preparing well. I’ve been sharpening my skills and I’m ready to give it my all, 100 percent. I feel the same as a younger boxer who is less experienced because this is a great chance for me. This is a great responsibility, a great risk. I am very excited and motivated for this fight.”
Smith comes into the fight as a significant favorite. FanDuel Sportsbook lists him as a -400 pick over Vlasov (+280), with -110 odds on Smith finishing the fight by knockout or TKO.
Smith certainly has knockout power. He owns the biggest win of either fighter’s career, his 2016 knockout victory over Bernard Hopkins that put Smith on the map for boxing fans.
BoxRec currently rates Smith as the No. 4 light heavyweight boxer in the world, with Vlasov at No. 6.