Joe Smith Jr MD-12 Maxim Vlasov
Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) became the new WBO light heavyweight champion tonight, in what appeared to be a controversial majority decision over Maxim Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs) over 12 rounds of action. Official judges turned in scores of 114-114, 115-112, and 115-112 in favor of Smith. I scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Vlasov for BLH.
Vlasov started the fight quickly, showcasing the fluidity and speed of his punching which seemed to have Smith a bit overwhelmed — to the point where Smith was retreating to the ropes for most of the fight. I had Vlasov sweeping the first half of the fight by scoring accuractely and consistently, while it appeared to me that Smith was landing clean shots far too infrequently for him to be winning rounds. Smith did manage to land some singular shots that buzzed Vlasov, but Vlasov was clearly the aggressor for most of the fight, having Smith covering up along the ropes looking for homerun counters.
In the backend of the fight Smith did start to come on and clearly hurt Vlasov with punches in spots, but never officially scored a knockdown and Vlasov valiantly fought back, giving as good of an effort as you’d expect from a world title contender.
Some confusion during the 11th round of the #SmithVlasov fight pic.twitter.com/aozGrQGHTA— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) April 11, 2021
But alas, it was not to be for Vlasov who got the short end of the stick on the cards. Vlasov was clearly disheartened by the official decision as it was rendered.
Efe Ajagba KO-3 Brian Howard
In the ESPN opener, heavyweight Efe Ajagba made a spectacular statement, scoring a highlight reel knockout of Brian Howard in the third round of action. For sure, this will be a knockout you’re going to see a lot of and is a clear a Knockout of the Year contender if not leader. But why should I talk about it when the clip speaks for itself.
ONE PUNCH POWER @AjagbaEfe #SmithVlasov pic.twitter.com/31yr16m6en— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) April 11, 2021
The official time of the stoppage came at 1:29 of Round 3 but it was pretty clear the knockout was inevitable. Ajagba was noticeably bigger and stronger than Howard and had landed a couple of big right hands in the first round that clearly shook Howard up. Howard would get defensive for a bit which would allow him to survive longer than he otherwise would have, but another concussive right hand ultimately landed put Howard out violently. But as emphatic and scary as the knockout was, Howard was up and seemingly in decent condition a short time later.
With the win Ajagba moves to 15-0, (12 KOs) and appears to be ready for the next step up in competition while Howard falls to 15-5 (12 KOs) and will likely need some time to shake those cobwebs off before getting back to it.