Top Rank has officially confirmed its first card of 2022, which will see Joe Smith Jr. defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Callum Johnson on January 15th in Verona, NY.
Smith (27-3, 21 KO) was originally supposed to make his inaugural defense against mandatory challenger Umar Salamov ahead of a 2022 clash with Daniel Jacobs, but Smith’s run-in with COVID delayed the bout before Salamov’s reported visa issues scrapped it. Salamov instead signed on to challenge Dmitry Bivol for the WBA belt in his native Russia, leaving Smith to face the 11th-ranked Johnson (20-1, 14 KO).
As others have said, it’ll be an absolute firefight while it last, one that could easily come down to who lands the first big shot. Grumpy as I am about the lack of unification, I am a simple man who enjoys watching powerful men and women bludgeon each other for fun and profit, so I can live with this.
Smith said, “I am glad to be getting back into the ring as quickly as I am to defend my WBO world championship after having COVID. It is not the fight the fans or I expected, but this will be an explosive fight between two huge punchers. I look forward to facing Johnson and defending my belt in front of my fans, as well as putting on a great show for the ones watching at home.”
Johnson said, “Joe is a good world champion, and we’re both big punchers. I’m looking forward to it as much as I’m sure he will be. I also would like to thank Frank Warren and the team at Queensberry, who said they would deliver me a world title shot. They’ve done their job, and now it’s time for me to do my job in the ring and become the new WBO light heavyweight champion.”
The co-feature pits featherweight prospect Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KO) against Mexico-born, California-based slugger Jose Enrique Vivas (21-1, 11 KO). “El Super” managed just one fight this year, an August decision over Filipino vet Richard Pumicpic, while Vivas survived two knockdowns and a point deduction to take a career-best decision over Luis Coria in May.
Familiar undercard faces include Duke Ragan (4-0, 1 KO), Jahi Tucker (5-0, 2 KO) Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KO), and Kasir Goldston (4-0, 1 KO)