Joe Smith Jr. and Maxim Vlasov won’t have to wait too much longer to fight for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title.
BoxingScene.com has learned that promoter Top Rank intends to reschedule the Smith-Vlasov fight for April 10 at a site to be determined. Smith and Vlasov were scheduled to fight February 13 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, but their 12-round, 175-pound title fight was postponed February 11, the day before they were supposed to weigh in, because Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.
ESPN, which was set to televise Smith-Vlasov as a main event last month, still will air it April 10. MGM Grand Conference Center will not be the site for their rescheduled bout, but a deal hadn’t been finalized as of Tuesday morning for a new venue.
Smith, 31, is the WBO’s number one contender for its unclaimed light heavyweight title. Vlasov, 34, is ranked second by the WBO.
They’ll fight for a crown Canelo Alvarez vacated after the Mexican icon knocked out Russia’s Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to win it in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Smith (26-3, 21 KOs), of Mastic, New York, beat Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez (25-2, 13 KOs) by ninth-round technical knockout in a WBO elimination match August 22 at MGM Grand Conference Center to secure this title fight.
Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs), of Samara, Russia, bypassed the WBO’s other eliminator and advanced to this championship bout with Smith.
He was supposed to fight fellow Russian Umar Salamov (25-1, 19 KOs), who is ranked fourth by the WBO, in another elimination match. Vlasov was moved directly into the Smith fight after his November 20 bout versus Salamov in Minsk, Belarus, was postponed because Salamov contracted COVID-19.
Smith-Vlasov will be the next main event ESPN will televise live on the network as part of its exclusive content partnership with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
The next two ESPN-Top Rank shows will be offered live on ESPN+, the network’s $6-per-month streaming service.
In an ESPN+ main event March 20, Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) will make a mandated defense of his IBF light heavyweight title against Germany’s Adam Deines (19-1-1, 10 KOs). On April 3, an ESPN+ stream will be headlined by Cincinnati’s Jamel Herring (22-2, 10 KOs) and Belfast’s Carl Frampton (28-2, 16 KOs) in a 12-round fight for Herring’s WBO junior lightweight title at Caesars Bluewaters Dubai in Dubai.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.