As revealed by Michael Woods last week, the delayed WBO light heavyweight title fight between Joe Smith Jr. and Maxim Vlasov is officially set for April 10th. Top Rank announced today that the ESPN-aired card will land in Tulsa, OK and feature top heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba in the co-feature.
JUST ANNOUNCED— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) March 17, 2021
Joe Smith Jr. & Maxim Vlasov square off for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight strap.
Unbeaten Heavyweights @AjagbaEfe & @TeamBigBabyy are both back in action.
Osage Casino, Tulsa, Okla. (Ticket info soon)#SmithVlasov | APRIL 10 | ESPN & ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/N9dzkdm6mp
Smith (26-1, 21 KO) got a golden opportunity when Gilberto Ramirez declined to participate in the WBO’s contender tournament, allowing him to fill in and impressively batter Eleider Alvarez in his semifinal. Vlasov (45-3, 26 KO), who’s fought everywhere from middleweight to cruiserweight, was supposed to meet Umar Salamov before pandemic-based logistic issues provided a direct path to the Smith fight.
The coronavirus managed a parting shot, however, forcing Vlasov to withdraw just days ahead of their initial February date.
“I am extremely motivated after all I have been though in my career,” Smith said. “I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I am confident I will bring the belt home on April 10 and move forward with my goal of unifying belts and proving I am the best light heavyweight in the world.”
“I am ready to return to the ring and become the new WBO light heavyweight world champion,” Vlasov said. “The postponement was a minor setback, but it will be worth the wait when I have that belt around my waist.”
Ajagba (14-0, 11 KO), a former Nigerian Olympian with solid wins over Amir Mansour and Ali Eren Demirezen, takes a step back/sideways against longtime cruiserweight and onetime light heavyweight Brian Howard (15-4, 12 KO). “MVP” does boast knockouts of Shawndell Winters and Carlos Negron, but he’s also 40 years old and coming off a brutal loss to Frank Sanchez. Considering that Ajagba came up extremely flat in his Top Rank debut last September, the caution may be warranted.
The ESPN+ undercard presently features a TBA triple threat against rising heavyweights Jared Anderson (8-0, 8 KO), Trey Lippe Morrison (16-0, 16 KO), and Jeremiah Milton (2-0, 2 KO).
Unfortunately for us viewers, the date puts it in direct conflict with Jaron Ennis vs Sergey Lipinets on Showtime because boxing is dumb.