Joe Smith Jr. digs down deep to defeat Maxim Vlasov, wins light heavyweight belt.
First in was Dimitry Bivol and then Covid-19 that denied Joe Smith Jr. his dream of winning a world championship. Tonight though, at Osage Casino in Tulsa, OK, Smith wasn’t about to be denied.
The Long Island, New York fighter edged Maxim Vlasov over 12 rounds to capture the WBO light heavyweight crown.
Scores were 114-114 and 115-113 twice.
Smith tried to jab his way inside in round one. Vlasov, adopting a herky jerky style, fired a number of punches that kept Smith befuddled and off balance – and bleeding from a cut over his left eye. Smith landed a couple of big right hands in round two.
Vlasov worked the eye while Smith went to the body. Smith landed a combination in round three. Vlasov, with his hands at his sides, connected with an uppercut. His jab landed plus a few lefts and rights.
Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) was having a hard time finding any rhythm against the awkward Vlasov. Vlasov (45-4, 28 KOs) kept peppering Smith in round four. Smith connected with a hard right and left. Vlasov fought back but Smith may have edged it by landing the harder blows.
In rounds five and six, Vlasov connected with a hard right. Smith,31, continued to wipe the crimson from his left eye. Vlasov kept working but Smith rallied in the last 10 seconds of the stanza. Smith jabbed but ate three punches in return. Vlasov,34, went back to his corner with blood dripping from his mouth.
Smith hurt Vlasov with a left hook in round seven. Vlasov hung on as Smith fired shots from all angles. Vlasov fired back, but Smith landed a number of shots to the ribs. Smith hurt him again with a big right.
Vlasov tried to move more in round eight, but Smith had upped the ante. He clipped Vlasov with hard blows. The crafty Vlasov caught Smith with a right. He worked the body. His rally seemed to surprise Smith. Vlasov continued his activity in round nine. He was landing, while Smith looked tired. A combination knocked Smith into the ropes. The pace and the punches were causing him to wilt.
Smith needed to find his second wind. Vlasov wasn’t letting him. He punched and punched as Smith took and took. Smith landed his right in the last few seconds of the round. Was his second wind kicking in?
Yes it was.
In round 11, Smith clubbed Vlasov to the side. He pushed Vlasov back and let his hands go. His bodyshots were bothering Vlasov. A shot to the back of the head sent Vlasov to the canvas. No knockdown. The round ended with no further activity.
In the 12th and final round, Smith connected to the ribs. Vlasov caught him with a right to the eye, but Smith battled back with shots to the head and body. Vlasov returned a few blows, but it was Smith who let his hands go and kept landing at the bell.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Smith. “It was definitely a close fight. I believe I got the victory because I landed more power punches.”