A late round surge by Joe Smith Jr. proved to be the difference in an otherwise dead even fight.
The bruising light heavyweight from the Mastic Beach section of Long Island, New York claimed the vacant WBO 175-pound title following a 12-round majority decision win over Russia’s Maxim Vlasov. The fight was even on two of the three scorecards through ten rounds, with Smith sweeping the championship rounds to win his first major title Saturday evening in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In what many acknowledged as a terrific action fight with several potential swing rounds, the three judges—David Sutherland (Oklahoma), Gerald Ritter (Oklahoma) and Pat Russell (California)—agreed on nine of the 12 rounds.
All three ringside officials had Vlasov winning the opening round as well as rounds 6, 9 and 10. Smith managed to sweep rounds 4, 7, 8, 11 and 12, the latter two providing the margin of victory on the cards of Russell (115-113) and Ritter (115-112).
Judge Sutherland scored the contest 114-114, having Vlasov ahead 96-94 before awarding Smith’s dominant home stretch to have him pull even in their ESPN-televised event.
Minor controversy prevailed in round 11, when Smith floored Vlasov with a right hand to the back of his opponent’s skull. Referee Gary Ritter warned Smith for the infraction while waving off the sequence as a slip. Overall, Smith outlanded Vlasov 27-12 in the frame, promoting judge Gerald Ritter (Gary’s twin brother) to score the round 10-8 in favor of the 31-year-old New Yorker. The viewpoint was shared by a grand total of nobody; worse, it took the fight off of the table for Vlasov, who trailed by two points with one round to go as a result.
In terms of awarding round for one fighter of the other, judges Ritter and Sutherland agreed on all except for round three—Sutherland in favor of Vlasov while Ritter awarded the round to Smith.
Ritter and Russell were in agreement on 10 of the 12 rounds, disagreeing in the 2nd and 5th frames. Russell was the lone wolf in both rounds, awarding Vlasov round two and round five for Smith while Sutherland and Ritter went the other way in both of those frames.
Sutherland and Russell disagreed on all three rounds—2, 3 and 5—that weren’t unanimous. Sutherland was alone in his scoring of round three, awarding Vlasov a frame in which momentum seemed to shift in favor of Smith.
Vlasov was ahead or even on Sutherland’s scorecard all the way through round ten. Conversely, the 34-year-old from Samara, Russia never led at any point in the fight on Ritter’s card pulling even in rounds two, six and ten but otherwise trailing throughout the rest of the entertaining fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox