Smith Jr Beats Vlasov To Win WBO 175-Lb Belt

In a fight result that could have easily gone the other way, #1 WBO Joe Smith Jr (27-3, 21 KOs) rallied late to defeat Maxim Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs) by a 12 round majority decision to claim the vacant World Boxing Organization 175-lb strap on Saturday night at the Osage in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

(Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

On social media, boxing fans say that Smith was given a gift decision based on him being the A-side in the promotion.

The judges’ scores:

  • 114-114
  • 115-112
  • 115-113

Smith, 31, came on at the end of the fight, hurting Vlasov in the 11th and finishing strong in the 12th to take the round. The judges liked the stronger shots from Smith and gave him rounds in which he was clearly outworked and out-boxed by the 34-year-old Vlasov.

The victory for the New Yorker Smith puts him in a unification fight with IBF/WBC 175-lb champion Artur Beterbiev, but it’s unclear how long fans will have to wait for that match to take place. Smith suffered a cut over his left eye that is going to take time to heal.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

 

At best, we might be looking at September or October before the Beterbiev vs. Smith fight takes place. At worst, it could stretch into November, and that’s if the cut doesn’t reopen once Smith begins training.

The defeat for Vlasov halts his bid to capture his first world title, and it’s disappointing that he had to lose in this manner because there are so many boxing fans that believed that he did more than enough to rate the win tonight.

At this point, Vlasov will need to get in line and try and earn a shot against the winner of the Beterbiev vs. Smith fight. There won’t be an immediate rematch with Smith unless the WBO orders one, but they probably won’t. The Beterbiev-Smith fight is too big for the WBO to get in the way of it by letting Vlasov have a rematch.

 “It’s a great feeling. It was definitely a close, tough fight. I give it to Vlasov,” said Smith Jr after the fight. “Great fighter. He really put on a great show tonight and toughed it out. I believe that round where I hurt him there… I believe he had his head down, and I should’ve got the knockout.

“I think I would’ve got the stoppage in {the 11th} round, but he pulled it off and made it out on his feet. I believe I got the victory tonight because they saw I landed the harder shots. He landed a lot of punches. It was a great fight,” said Smith.

If Smith hadn’t hit Vlasov with a punch directly behind his head in the 11th, he might have had a chance of knocking him out. But it was his fault for getting overanxious after he hurt the Russian fighter with some big shots in that round.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

If Smith had kept his composure, he might have finished off Vlasov in that round, but he clearly got a little too excited and landed what appeared to be an intentional rabbit punch. As a result, the referee did the right thing in giving Vlasov time to recover from the shot.

Smith had been warned earlier in the fight for throwing a shot to the back of Vlasov’s head. It was a surprise that the referee didn’t dock a point from Smith when he connected with a rabbit punch in the 11th. You can argue that Smith deserved to be penalized, but the referee gave him a clear break by not taking the point off.

“I felt confident I was winning and was securing rounds in the bank with the judges,” said a visibly upset Vlasov after the fight.