Ivan Baranchyk vs Jose Zepeda isn’t the only quality matchup Top Rank has in store for July. Mike Coppinger reports that Eleider Alvarez and Joe Smith Jr have an “agreement in principle” to headline a mid-July ESPN card tentatively planned for the 16th.
The fight is one of two semifinal eliminators for the WBO belt Canelo Alvarez took from Sergey Kovalev and subsequently vacated. Former champion Alvarez (25-1, 13 KO) was originally ordered to face top contender Gilberto Ramirez, but “Zurdo” went radio silent after Top Rank won that purse bid unopposed. Smith (25-3, 20 KO), coming off an impressive victory over Jesse Hart, answered the call in his place.
The other semifinal, Umar Salamov vs Maxim Vlasov, may prove trickier to put together in a timely fashion. Though both are Russian and promoted by Top Rank, Salamov currently resides in Las Vegas, while Vlasov fights out of his native Samara, Russia. Travel restrictions being what they are, that’s an issue.
Still, Alvarez-Smith is an excellent matchup, even if it’s not the Alvarez-Smith that people had in mind when clicking this article. Alvarez has looked ferocious lately and Smith’s power has consistently proven potent. Should make for quality Thursday viewing.