WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. is hoping to make up for lost time in 2022.

He captured his world title with a tough decision win over Maxim Vlasov earlier this year, but a planned October defense against Umar Salamov was derailed when Smith contracted COVID. 

“It was a great moment, great feeling winning a world title,” said Smith to Fansided. “It feels great to be holding the belt, and I just look forward to what it’s gonna bring. And I know it’s gonna bring some big opportunities and fights.”

Smith will now defend his title on January 15 against dangerous British puncher Callum Johnson.

Johnson has won three in a row since a loss to current WBC, IBF champion Artur Beterviev. Before he was stopped, Johnson showed his power in the fight by dropping Beterbiev down hard at the end of the second round.

The British banger is hoping that a world title win over Smith will lead to a unification rematch with Beterviev.

However, Smith (27-3, 23 KOs) has the very same goal - to unify against Beterviev or WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, who holds a decision win over Smith.

“I’m looking for the big fights,” said Smith. “You know, I want Beterbiev. I want to redeem myself against Bivol. So, you know, in order to do that, though, I got to focus on Johnson and get past him. But hopefully, right after this guy, I could get Beterbiev or somebody in the ring.”

Top Rank, who work with both Smith and Beterbiev, would like to match them in a unification.

Last weekend, Beterbiev retained his titles with a hard-fought stoppage of mandatory challenger Marcus Browne. During the fight, Beterbiev sustained a very serious cut due to a clash of heads.