SMITH JR. BECOMES ONLY FOURTH LONG ISLAND BORN WORLD CHAMPION
Years of union construction work and tree trimming, while maintaining a dedication to his craft, came full circle on Saturday night when Long Island’s “Common Man” JOE SMITH JR. (27-3 21KO’s) cemented his legacy in boxing history by defeating MAXIM VLASOV (46-4 26KO’s), being crowned the new WBO Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In front of a rowdy Long Island filled crowd, Smith Jr. and Vlasov went toe to toe at the Osage Casino, in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the vacant WBO strap. Vlasov started fast out of the gate, pressuring Smith and maintaining distance with a pest like jab. Smith would be cut over his eye, late in the first round, which seemingly took him time to regain his composure.
The pace of the fight was relentless, as Vlasov used jittery upper body movement to keep Smith’s sledgehammer hands at bay for the early part of the fight. But the ‘Common Man’ would not be denied, and began landing with bad intentions. In the third round, Smith landed a flush right cross that staggered the Russian, who managed to cling on for the remainder of the round.
In the seventh round, Smith may have had his best combination of the fight, landing a right followed by a monster left, which stumbled Vlasov and had him on weak legs for the remainder of the round. Vlasov showed poise and experience, managing to tie up and keep himself upright.
Vlasov came out in the 9th and 10th round with vengeance, forcing Smith to fight off his heels. However, in the championship rounds Smith, strapped up his boots and got to work. The 11th saw Smith dig violent punches to the body. After a flurry of punches Vlasov took a knee, but it was not ruled a knockdown by the referee, stating that the punch was to the back of the head. The delay in the return to action may have saved the Russian from a knockout stoppage, but Smith would not let it deter him from leaving everything he had in the ring, knowing one more round could very well determine his fate as a champion.
The final round saw Smith in full on attack mode – a nod to his incredible conditioning. In the final ten seconds, Smith unloaded every punch he had left, closing out a wildly entertaining light heavyweight championship fight. Joe Smith would go on to be crowned as the WBO Light Heavyweight Champion of the World by majority decision (114-114 Draw, 115-113 Smith, 115-112 Smith).
Here’s what Smith had to say on his crowning achievement, “It’s a great feeling,” Smith said. “It was definitely a close, tough, tough fight. Vlasov is a great fighter and he really put on a great show tonight and toughed it out. In that [11th] round I hurt him, I believe he stuck his head down and I should have gotten the knockdown. I believe I would have gotten the stoppage. … I landed the bigger, harder shots, but he landed a lot of punches, too. It was a great fight.”
Star Boxing CEO JOE DEGUARDIA had this to say about the World Title bout, “What a gritty performance from non-other than the blue collar hero himself, Joe Smith. All of us at Star Boxing are so proud of the effort he put forth in this fight. We also tip our hat to Maxim Vlasov for an incredible effort. It was not an easy fight, but like any true champion, he bit down and found that champion inside of him, especially during the ‘Championship’ rounds. Joe is in a position to have some mega opportunities in 2021, but first we want to let him finally enjoy that honeymoon!”