Joe Smith Jr. faces Callum Johnson on January 15th in Verona, New York

11/17/2021 - By Jeff Sorby - Comments

WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) will be making his first defense of his newly won title against Callum Johnson on January 15th in a Top Rank Boxing promoted show on ESPN at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

ESPN is reporting that Smith Jr. and #8 WBO Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) have agreed to the terms for the fight. Originally, Smith, 32, was supposed to defend against Umar Salamov last month on October 30th, but he visa issues trying to come to the U.S from Russia.

Due to this, Smith Jr. will now be defending against former world title challenger Johnson, which is arguably a better fight.

U.S boxing fans are familiar with Johnson from his fight with IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev three years ago when he surprisingly dropped the undefeated champion.

Johnson had Beterbiev badly hurt in the third round, but let him off the hook by failing to go for the knockout. Beterbiev came back in the fourth round to knock Johnson out.

This is a dangerous fight for Smith because he’s easy to hit, and he tends to get involved in wars with his opponents rather than fighting smart.

Smith is coming off a questionable12 round majority decision last April against Maxim Vlasov, and he was very lucky to get the win. The two battled for the vacant WBO 175-lb title that had been vacated by Canelo Alvarez.

Boxing fans were hoping that Smith Jr. would face Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol in a unification fight, but none of those were on the table for him.

Joe Smith Jr. faces Callum Johnson on January 15th in Verona, New York

Smith has turned his career around after going through a rough patch between 2017 and 2019 in which he lost two out of three fights in defeats against Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol, but he’s looked improved lately in winning his last three fights.

In 2019. Smith challenged Dmitry Bivol for his WBA light heavyweight title, and looked good during portions of the fight. However, Bivol was too skilled for him, and wound up winning a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision.

Smith did have Bivol hurt at one point in the contest when he nailed him with a shot after the bell in the tenth, but the Russian fighter recovered in between rounds and cruised to victory.

Perhaps the best win of Smith’s career came in 2016 when he blitzed Andrzej Fonfara in stopping him in the first round in a shocker.

Going into that fight many boxing fans felt that Fonfara would easiuly win, as Smith Jr. wasn’t well known at the time. No one knew what to expect of Smith until watching him destroy Fonfara in one round.

Smith followed up his victory over Fonfara by stopping Bernard Hopkins in the eighth round in December 2016, which ended the boxing star’s career.

Hopkins fell out of the ring in the eighth round after getting hurt by Smith, and he was injured after he hit the ground outside of the ring. Some boxing fans thought Hopkins faked his injury because he didn’t get back in the ring to continue to take punishent from Smith.

Assuming Smith beats Callum Johnson on December 15th, his next fight will be against former IBF/WBA middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs.

The 34-year-old ‘Miracle Man’ Jacobs fights at 168, and has been out of the ring for a year since his controversial 12 round split decision win over Gabe Rosado in November 2020.

Jacobs looked old, shot and unmotivated in that fight. Some boxing fans that Jacobs has lost his desire to compete after getting a big payday fight against Canelo Alvarez in May 2019.

Boxing fans would rather watch Joe Smith Jr. fight a relevant guy from the 175-lb division rahter than an over-the-hill Jacobs

Smith Jr. can’t afford to be looking ahead of his fight with Callum Johnson because he could lose. Johnson hits hard enough to stop Smith Jr. if he can land his shots.

The 36-year-old Johnson is coming off a close 10 round majority decision win over Server Emurlaev lat October. Johnson looked barely better than Emuralaev, and he was fortunate to get the win.