Joe Smith Jr faces Maxim Vlasov on February 13th on ESPN

Smith-Vlasov and Richard Commey-Jackson Marinez lightweight showdown to air LIVE on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS (December 22, 2020) — Light heavyweight contender Joe “The Beast” Smith Jr., the consummate everyman, spent more than a decade as a union laborer on Long Island. He now owns and operates a tree service business, chopping and trimming trees when he’s not training.

At 31 years old, this far-from-average Joe will battle Russian veteran Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO light heavyweight world title Saturday, Feb. 13. In the 10-round lightweight co-feature, former world champion Richard “RC” Commey will fight Dominican slickster Jackson Marinez.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and Patriot Promotions, Smith-Vlasov and Commey-Marinez will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Joe Smith Jr vs. Maxim Vlasov - live results

“This is Rocky IV come to life,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Joe Smith Jr. is boxing’s blue-collar hero, a relentless fighter who chops down trees outside the ring and chops down opponents when the lights are bright. Maxim Vlasov is a tough Russian who is going to meet Joe punch for punch in the center of the ring. This will be an early contender for 2021 Fight of the Year.”

DeGuardia said, “I am very confident that Joe Smith Jr. will be the new WBO world champion, but I also know that Maxim Vlasov is a strong and seasoned fighter who also wants to become champion. It will make for a great night of boxing on ESPN. Kudos to the WBO for recognizing Joe’s talents and mandating this fight, and to Bob Arum and Top Rank for their continued excellence during this pandemic.”

Smith (26-3, 21 KOs) is best known for sending living legend Bernard Hopkins through the ropes and into retirement in 2016, but a world title has thus far proven elusive. He received a shot at the WBA light heavyweight world title in March 2019 and nearly knocked out Dmitry Bivol in the 10th round, but Bivol hung on to win a unanimous decision. Smith rampaged in 2020, dominating Jesse Hart over 10 rounds and knocking out former world champion Eleider Alvarez in an August title eliminator. Those victories propelled Smith to the WBO No. 1 ranking and a second crack at world title glory.

Smith said, “I have worked very hard to get a second opportunity at a world title. I feel I have improved, and on February 13, I am going to make my dream come true and become world champion.”

Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs), a 15-year-pro, has been a world-level operator at super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight. He moved down to light heavyweight in early 2019 and soon joined the ranks of the top contenders. In a six-month span, Vlasov stopped Omar Garcia in four rounds, topped longtime contender Isaac Chilemba by unanimous decision to avenge a 2011 defeat, and shut out the previously undefeated Emmanuel Martey over 10 rounds.

“This is a great chance, and perhaps my last opportunity, to finally become a world champion,” Vlasov said. “Smith is a strong and relentless fighter, so I expect a very serious challenge.”

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Commey (29-3, 26 KOs), from Accra, Ghana, has been a lightweight since turning pro in his home nation in February 2011. He fell just short in his first attempt at a world title, dropping a split decision to Robert Easter Jr. in September 2016 for the vacant IBF title. Commey won the IBF title in February 2019 with a second-round stoppage over Isa Chaniev, then defended it in June with an eighth-round knockout over former world champion Ray Beltran. His title reign ended that December, when Teofimo Lopez emerged with a star-making second-round TKO. Commey has not fought since the Lopez fight and is re-energized for another world title run.

Commey said, “It’s been a long and frustrating wait to get back into the ring, and February 13 can’t come soon enough. I’ve kept myself in shape, but once I heard the date, I stepped up my training. All I’ve been thinking about is winning back my title. I am not looking past Jackson Marinez, as I know he is a tough, slick fighter, so he has my full attention. The road to redemption begins now.”

Marinez (19-1, 7 KOs), from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, entered 2020 largely unknown to fight fans. That all changed in August, when he outboxed the unbeaten Rolando Romero over 12 rounds. The official judges disagreed with most boxing observers, and Marinez lost a unanimous decision. Trained by Robert Garcia in Riverside, Calif., Marinez gets a shot at redemption and would enter the world title picture with a victory over Commey.

Joe Smith Jr. to Battle Maxim Vlasov for Light Heavyweight World Title February 13 on ESPN

The working man’s hero, Long Island light heavyweight slugger, JOE “THE BEAST” SMITH JR. (26-3 21KO’S) is officially set to take on Russian MAXIM VLASOV (45-3 26KO’s) on February 13th for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight World Title on ESPN.

If it weren’t reality, some would say it was scripted. An American union laborer’s rise to the top of the boxing world, in the paramount bout of his career for the Championship of the World, against a big strong Russian bear.

Smith Jr. had a 2020 reminiscent of his remarkable 2016. In both years, Smith Jr. secured two major upsets, placing himself inside the top 5 in the light heavyweight division and on track to fight for a world title.

Smith Jr vs. Vlasov - official ESPN weights

As a relative unknown in 2016, and a 16-1 underdog on NBC, Smith Jr. traveled to Chicago to win a devastating first-round knockout of then #2 rated, Andrezj Fonfara in what would be dubbed “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine.

Later that year, once again as an underdog, Smith Jr. would knock boxing legend Bernard Hopkins, clear out of the ring, onto the Forum floor, becoming the first to knock out the former multi-division world champion.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

Both knockouts were also runners-up for Knockout of the Year. With a win over the likes of Fonfara and Hopkins in back-to-back fights, Smith Jr. became a well-regarded and beloved inspiration in the light heavyweight division.

Fast forward to 2020, and Smith Jr. would once again find himself clawing back into the mix of a hot light heavyweight division. In January, Smith Jr. was in the main event on ESPN from the Hard Rock in Atlantic City, where he soundly defeated then #1 rated light heavyweight, and heavily favored Jesse Hart for the WBO NABO Light Heavyweight Title.

Next, Smith Jr. laced up his boots and found himself again as the underdog in a four-man WBO World Title elimination tournament against then #1 rated and former world champion, Elieder Alvarez.

After dominating the fight, Smith Jr. knocked Alvarez through the ropes in the ninth round, eerily similar to his Bernard Hopkins knockout, four years prior, en route to a 9th round brutal TKO victory.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

With his August win over Alvarez, Smith Jr. was set to take on the winner of Maxim Vlasov vs. Umar Salamov in the finals of the WBO Title Eliminator.

However, after this semifinal bout was postponed once due to the global pandemic, again in October, and then the rescheduled November bout was also postponed when Salamov tested positive for COVID-19, Star Boxing’s NY Hall of Fame Promoter, JOE DEGUARDIA, requested and was granted the right for Smith Jr. to take on Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO World Title.

Vlasov, who had a twelve-fight win streak snapped by Krzyzsztof Glowacki in a bout for the Cruiserweight World Championship in November 2018, has since won three-in-a-row in which he collected the WBO Global Light Heavyweight Title.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

Smith Jr. now finds himself as the main character in a Rocky story, founded in reality. Just four years ago, as a member of Union Laborer’s Local 66, Smith Jr. could be found at the Bay Park Sewage Plant with RJ Industries, power washing fecal matter off of tanks.

To this day, Smith Jr. keeps his books up to date with the union, and while not fighting, can be found around Long Island servicing trees with his Dad, for their company, “Team Smith Tree Service.”

Originating from humble beginnings, with a roll up your sleeves style of hard work, Smith Jr.’s grit and determination to make something of himself has led him one victory away from glory and has made him the pride of the working class, known affectionately as the “Common Man.”

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

Joe Smith Jr. started his pro career with brothers Jerry and Phil Capobianco. “Running into Jerry (trainer) and Phil (manager) changed my life. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today.

I would still be a gym fighter.” SMITH JR. continued, “and a huge thank you to Joe DeGuardia and Star Boxing, my promoter, who took me to the Paramount and world and providing me with this great opportunity and believing in me. I am ready for this fight, and I can’t wait”.

Star Boxing CEO, JOE DEGUARDIA, said this about the upcoming World Title fight, “Joe Smith Jr. is one of the hardest working men in boxing.

He is the optime of the working-class hero. It is truly a different experience watching Joe fight – he has hammers in both fists, and at a moment’s notice, can end a fight.

Joe Smith Jr., Maxim Vlasov - Boxing News

He has vastly improved his boxing ability, and I believe he has become the top guy in the division. I am very confident that the ‘Common Man,’ Joe Smith Jr., will be the World Champion. Kudos to the WBO for recognizing Joe’s talents and mandating this fight.”

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