In what he claims will be Top Rank’s “first stateside show of 2021”, Mike Coppinger brings word of an excellent doubleheader in store for February 13th. Joe Smith Jr. takes on Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title in the main event, while Richard Commey ends a lengthy layoff against Jackson Marinez in the co-main.
This past January, Smith (26-3, 21 KO) and Vlasov (45-3, 26 KO) were ordered to participate in a four-man playoff for the belt formerly held by Canelo Alvarez. Smith did his part, beating down Eleider Alvarez in an impressive effort this past August, but myriad issues kept Vlasov from his semifinal bout with Umar Salamov. When Salamov caught COVID, the sanctioning body elected to cut out the middleman and simply order these two to go at it.
It’s a quality matchup between two very capable light heavyweights, and one that could easily lead to a unification match with Top Rank stablemate Artur Beterbiev if Beterbiev’s endless string of misfortune lets up.
Commey (29-3, 26 KO) knocked out Isa Chaniev for the IBF belt and a planned crack at Vasiliy Lomachenko, only for a slight hand injury to take that off the table. He went on to defend his belt with a knockout of Ray Beltran, then fall to Teofimo Lopez in two this past December.
The Dominican Republic’s Marinez (19-1, 7 KO) should be entering this matchup with the interim WBA lightweight belt, but he wound up jobbed against unbeaten Mayweather product Rolando Romero in their August tussle. This isn’t the rematch he wanted, but it’s a big-name fight that could catapult him into title contention with a win.