Joe Smith Jr. and Omar Salamov ink contracts, to fight in Oct/Nov on Espn

WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) and #3 WBO Umra Salamov (26-1, 9 KOs) have inked contracts for a fight in October or November in a Top Rank promoted fight on ESPN.

The likely destination for the Smith Jr vs. Salamov fight is at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Mike Coppinger is reporting the news of the signing by Smith, 31, and Salamov.

This will be the first title defense for Smith Jr. of his WBO 175-lb belt he won last April with a hard 12 round majority decision win over Maxim Vlasov.

Given the difficulties Smith Jr had against Vlasov, it’s not a sure thing that he will beat the 27-year-old Salamov.

Although Smith Jr is a huge puncher, he can be outboxed, as seen in his loss to Dmitry Bivol. He can also be out-slugged; Sullivan Barrera and Eddie Caminero both out-punched Smith Jr.

“The Theater [at MSG in New York] is the most logical spot,” Smith co-promoter Joe DeGuardia said to ESPN. “I think it’s the perfect place for Joe to make his first world title defense. We’d certainly pack it, that’s for sure.”

Smith will be coming into the Salamov fight with a three-fight winning streak since losing to Bivol by a 12 round unanimous decision in 2019.

Joe Smith’s last three wins:

  • Maxim Vlasov – MD 12
  • Eleider Alvarez – TKO 9
  • Jesse Hart – SD 10

Vlasov and Hard were very difficult fights for Smith Jr, and he was lucky to get the victories. That’s the problem with Smith.

He’s someone that can just as easily lose as he can win, and it’s hard to know for sure if he’s going to get through a fight without getting beaten.

Joe Smith Jr., Umar Salamov - Boxing News

It’s too bad DeGuardia, and Top Rank couldn’t put together a unification fight between Smith Jr and IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev or WBA champ Bivol.

There would be money for Smith Jr. fighting either of those guys and losing wouldn’t be nearly as bad for his career as it would if he gets beaten by Salamov.

The 27-year-old Salamov has fought obscure opposition most of his nine-year professional career. His only career loss was a close 10 round unanimous decision to Australian Damien Hooper in 2017. That fight took place in Brisbane, Australia, and you have to wonder if Salamov deserved the win.

Salamov’s best wins:

  • Bob Ajisafe
  • Tomas Adamek
  • Doudou Ngumbu
  • Brian Howard
  • Norbert Nemesapati
  • Norbert Dabrowski
  • Emmanuel Danso

Salamov has beaten good enough opposition to rate a top-five ranking with the World Boxing Organization, but we don’t know how he’ll do against Joe Smith Jr.

That’s a big step up from the guys that Salamov has been fighting during his career.

Last year, Salamov was supposed to fight Maxim Vlasov, but he tested positive for COVID-19, which was canceled. Smith Jr ended up fighting Vlasov for the vacant WBO 175-lb title, and here he is now the champion.

Fortunately for Salamov, he didn’t have to participate in a WBO-ordered title eliminator for him to be given a title shot.

Assuming Smith Jr wins this fight, he’s expected to fight former IBF/WBA middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs, in the first quarter of 2022.

The 34-year-old Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) will be moving up from 168 to challenge Smith Jr in a business-level fight. Both Jacobs and Smith Jr are from New York, so the idea is to match them together to bring in many boxing fans from the area.

Jacobs has a two-fight winning streak since losing to Canelo in 2019, and he’s looked reasonably good.