2022 officially has its first COVID-canceled title fight, and I’m actually a bit surprised it took this long. Top Rank and Frank Warren have revealed that Callum Johnson is out of his January 15th ESPN headliner against Joe Smith Jr. after testing positive.
It’s a bit of a role-swap for Smith, who caught the virus in September ahead of a planned mandatory defense against Umar Salamov. It likely also scrapped his plans for an all-NY clash with Daniel Jacobs, as “Miracle Man” is all set to face John Ryder next month.
Now for my favorite part of these sorts of articles: rampant speculation about who will step in.
Honestly, the odds of Smith getting another ranked opponent look slim. Travel restrictions probably lock out most international options, and of the WBO top 15, only #9 Andre Dirrell and #14 Ali Izmailov train in the States. Dmitry Salita is admittedly fast-tracking the 6-0 Izmailov, that seems a bit too fast. What do you all think, Dirrell or some random jabroni for Smith to steamroll ahead of a potential Beterbiev unification?