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Joe Smith Jr vs Callum Johnson set for January 15th in New York

Johnson is 3-0 since his last title bid, which saw him floor Artur Beterbiev

Joe Smith Jr v Maxim Vlasov Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

After controversially defeating Maxim Vlasov for the WBO light heavyweight title, Joe Smith Jr. turned down a unification clash with Artur Beterbiev in favor of a two-fight deal that would see him fight mandatory challenger Umar Salamov before a big-money bout with fellow New Yorker Daniel Jacobs. That first bout, originally scheduled for October 30th, fell through when Smith caught COVID and is now entirely on the backburner.

Mike Coppinger reports that Smith will now make a voluntary defense of his title against Callum Johnson on January 15th, and Star Boxing’s Joe DeGuardia tells Dan Rafael that the fight, which came about when Salamov ran into visa issues, will land in Verona, NY’s Turning Stone Resort Casino.

Johnson (20-1, 14 KO) has won three straight since trading knockdowns with Beterbiev in his previous title shot and presently sits at #11 in the rankings, though he’s short on momentum at the moment after a questionable majority decision over Server Emurlaev last month. The guy can definitely punch, though, and Smith (27-3, 21 KO) had some help from the judges against Vlasov.

It’s a damn near guaranteed slugfest, at least, though it drives any hope of unification deep into 2022.