Joe Smith Jr. hopes to score a finish over Maxim Vlasov but he’s preparing for a 12-round war.
Smith will have another crack at a world title on February 13. He’ll be taking on Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO Light-Heavyweight Championship. If Smith defeats Vlasov, it’ll be his first world championship reign.
This isn’t expected to be an easy task for Smith as Vlasov is also looking for his first world title. Vlasov is riding a three-fight winning streak. His last outing was back in November 2019, defeating Emmanuel Martey via unanimous decision.
Smith is known for his work ethic. While no one will mistake him for being a technical wizard, there is little doubting Smith’s toughness and ability to overcome adversity. Hence why people often refer to him as “The Everyman.” During an interview with FIGHT SPORTS, Smith discussed how he developed that reputation.
“I guess I’m known for that because I grew up working every day. I started as a construction guy, well I can’t even say I started as a construction guy because I got into the tree business with my father at [a young age]. He brought me to work with him doing tree work. Then when I got a little older I got into the union. I was doing labor work. Local 66 labor and just got up, went to work a few days a week and went to the gym after that.”
Smith continued to work hard and entered the world of boxing. He amassed a respectable 22-1 record before facing Bernard Hopkins back in December 2016. Smith knocked Hopkins out of the ring in the eighth round. Smith was awarded the TKO victory.
When asked about that moment, “The Irish Bomber” said it was a stressful situation before the official verdict was read.
“When I knocked him through the ropes I couldn’t believe it. I had a feeling the fight was over, but at the same time, I was nervous because of the way he went out the ring. I knew it was due to a punch but it’s boxing, I guess anything could’ve happened. He was playing it off as if I pushed him out of the ring at the time. I guess they took their time to really go over what happened exactly. So just sitting there waiting for the minute or the 30 seconds it was to determine whether or not it was a punch, it was pretty nerve-racking.”
Smith had a letdown in his next outing, losing to Sullivan Barrera via unanimous decision. Following a first-round knockout win over Melvin Russell, Smith was awarded a WBA Light-Heavyweight Title shot against Dmitry Bivol. Smith lost the fight via unanimous decision.
“With my loss to Bivol, I put up a decent fight. I realized that I do have what it takes, I just needed to work on a few things, sharpen up a few things. It just motivated me to do that and work hard. I feel I’ve improved with each and every fight since and I believe I’m gonna look even better in this fight. Maybe one day down the road I’ll get another shot with Bivol.”
Smith said he felt his bout with Jesse Hart was a must-win. “The Irish Bomber” delivered with a split decision victory. He followed that up with a devastating ninth-round knockout win over Eleider Alvarez. Smith discussed the improvements he made in the Alvarez bout.
“After my performance with Jesse Hart, I realized I was a little too overaggressive and I walked into a few things. So with Eleider Alvarez, I knew he had that very good right hand so I tried to slow things down a little bit but still be very aggressive. Just slow down a tiny bit and work on a little more head movement to avoid that right hand all night. I got caught with it a couple of times but I was able to get past that and do the same to him. My pressure was just too much for him.”
Smith went on to praise Vlasov for his activity in fights but he feels his own pressure can’t be outmatched.
“Vlasov, I feel his strengths are just that he’s very busy, an aggressive guy, and he’s 6’3 and a half I believe so he’s got some reach on him. But I believe if I just keep the pressure on him and avoid some of his shots then I’ll come home with the win.”
Smith believes he is heading for 12 rounds of action but if the knockout is available, he plans on taking that opportunity.
“I’m expecting to go the distance because he’s never been stopped. He’s a tough, durable guy but if I can get him out of there I’m gonna do so.”
Often times when boxers capture a world title, they have reached the pinnacle of their careers. Smith said adding a major world title to his mantle would be a celebration of his hard work and dedication.
“Winning a world title is everything I’ve worked for my entire life. So it’s gonna mean a lot and I’m just looking forward to seeing what it brings me.”
Smith vs. Vlasov will air live on the major ESPN network and on FIGHT SPORTS in over 30 countries. Check your local listings for availability.