#1 WBO Joe Smith Jr and #2 Maxim Vlasov both made weight on Friday for their battle for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title on Saturday at the Osage Casino, Tulsa, Oklahoma. ESPN will be showing the fight beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET. (Credit: Mikey Williams (Top Rank via Getty Images)
Smith (26-3, 21 KOs0 weighed in at 174.8 lbs while the 34-year-old Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) came in at 175 lbs.
With Vlasov coming off a COVID 19 illness, we don’t know how he’ll look in this fight.
As we saw with Alexander Povetkin, it’s difficult to quickly return to top form after being ill with COVID. Povetkin looked badly depleted in his loss to Dillian Whyte on March 27th in Gilbraltar.
We should know whether Vlasov is 100% on Saturday in the first four rounds of the contest. If he’s firing on less than eight cylinders, he’s not going to last long against the big punching Smith.
The winner of the fight will be facing IBF/WBC 175lb champion Artur Beterbiev next unless they change their mind.
It would be perfectly understandable if the Smith-Vlasov winner chooses not to face Beterbiev, as it would be easier for them to make an easy title defense against the next highest ranked contender in the World Boxing Organisation’s rankings, Lyndon Arthur.
Smith, 31, has made it clear that he’s willing to fight Beterbiev next if he comes out victorious on Saturday night.
The New Yorker wants big fights, and he can’t get any bigger than to face IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev unless Canelo Alvarez suddenly gets courageous enough to return to the 175-lb division to try and reclaim his WBO light heavyweight title. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
Smith has won his last fights since his loss to WBA light heavyweight champion Dimitry Bivol in 2019. Joe was entirely overmatched against Bivol at the time, a loss that he blames on him using the wrong tactics.
If Smith beats Vlasov, he’s got the option of fighting a rematch with Bivol if he chooses. But it might be better for Smith to head in the direction of the 36-year-old Beterbiev, as he would at least have a puncher’s chance of winning.
Bivol’s technical skills might be too much for Smith to handle no matter how many times the two fight. But with Beterbiev not looking all that impressive in his recent fight with Adam Deines, Smith stands a better chance of beating him.
Other weights on Saturday night’s card
Efe Ajagba 239.6 lbs vs. Brian Howard 218 lbs
Jared Anderson 251.8 lbs vs. Jeremiah Karpency 226.6 lbs
Albert Bell 132.2 lbs vs. Manuel Rey Rojas 132
Robson Conceição 128.4 lbs vs. Jesus Antonio Ahumada 129
Trey Lippe Morrison 225.8 lbs vs. Jason Bergman 256
Duke Ragan 125.8 lbs vs. Charles Clark 126.6
Jeremiah Milton 231.8 lbs vs. Jayvone Dafney 222.6
Sonny Conto 230.4 lbs vs. Waldo Cortes 262