Smith edges Vlasov to win WBO LH title

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Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images

The “Common Man” Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) took a hard fought majority decision over Maxim Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs) to claim the vacant WBO light heavyweight title on Saturday night at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The lanky awkward Vlasov outworked Smith early and cut Smith over the left eye in round one. That cut troubled Smith the rest of the way. Smith connected with a big right hand in round two, but Vlasov continued to outwork him. Vlasov started bleeding from the mouth in round five. Smith landed some big shots in round seven. Vlasov rebounded well in round eight and had a big round nine as Smith faded. Smith rallied in round eleven. Vlasov went down down but referee Gary Ritter ruled it a punch behind the head. Still, a big round for Smith. Smith also won round twelve. Scores were 114-114, 115-113, 115-112.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Smith. “It was definitely a close, tough fight. I give it to Vlasov. Great fighter. He really put on a great show tonight and toughed it out. I believe that round where I hurt him there… I believe he had his head down, and I should’ve got the knockout. I think I would’ve got the stoppage that {11th} round, but he pulled it off and made it out on his feet. I believe I got the victory tonight because they saw I landed the harder shots. He landed a lot of punches. It was a great fight.

“I want the other belts. I want the big fights out there. Now I gotta get back in the gym and keep working on my technique and stuff. I believe I’m going to start unifying belts.”

Vlasov stated, “This was a very hard-fought, competitive fight. I thought I was winning rounds and was well ahead. Against the aggressive style of Joe Smith, I came forward the entire fight. I felt confident I was winning and was securing rounds in the bank with the judges. I never felt that I was behind at any stage of the fight. This was my opportunity to show the world I was a world champion and I did that and Joe Smith knows I did that.”

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  • Great fight,but bs decision.Vlasov was in control. Smith looked poor in most of the rounds.
    Beterbiev destroys both of them.

  • I thought Joe would eventually win this fight but honestly I thought Maxim won the fight by at least two points. Either way it was a good fight but if Joe fights this way against Artur Beterviev, Artur destroys Joe easily!

    • It was a super busy, sloppy, punch fest, and close fight! Sure beats the boring constant hitting and holding we see in some fights.

  • Ya always knew they would give it to Smith, but Buatsi, Callum Johnson, Azeez or Yarde beats this guy.

    • Yards? Wtf. Nonsense comment. He just got beat by Lyndon Arthur and has no names on his record outside of getting knocked out cold by an old Kovalev. And Dan Azeez? Another nobody. Stop smoking your surname.

      • Maybe you need to smoke some, then you would learn something about the game. Smith has zero skill, he is just borrowing that belt.

  • I had it 115-113 the other way. Smith has more heart than skill. He’s a modern day Rocky Balboa. Maxim fought 50% of the fight like the Energizer Bunny and the other %50 like Hank from Me, Myself and Irene. Tough fight to score but entertaining

  • Not a big problem with the decision.. could have gone either way.. close fight. Not a robbery. For his troubles, Smith will get iced by Beterbiev

  • Smith did not win that, not close. Might help if Top rank exec and promoter doesn’t lose their minds WWE style and hover over replay in 11th too.

  • Draw was probably the right decision . The 115 to 112 card I don’t like there was no official knockdown or point deduction. In my opinion no round in the fight was so dominated that warranted and extra point deducted .

    • Each fighter should have at least 108 points if they got 9 points for each round (x12). I dont see proof of a point deduction with 115 to 112 score card.

  • I am a Joe Smith fan, but the decision was disgraceful against the Russian. When these fights are moved to the hinterlands like Oklahoma, expect this garbage. I have never seen Joe look so bad in a fight. His defense was non-existent and his timing was horrible. The United States has an international reputation for corruption. It is well-earned.

  • It felt like a forgone conclusion that if the fight was close at all, you knew Smith was gonna get the decision. When his promotion team is allowed direct access to the referee and judges during the fight, you know there’s some crooked stuff going on. I had Vlasov winning 115-113, so this wasn’t a robbery in the class of Adrien Broner, but it was still a sketchy decision made all the more sketchy by the impression of Smith’s people allowed access to the supposed “impartial” people like refs and judges. Shame on American boxing, because fighters from other places always get screwed here; as I said before, it’s a forgone conclusion.

  • I like Joe Smith and rooted for him the entire way but he appeared to be outworked and outfought by a more seasoned, polished boxer in Vlasov. Close fight but the Russian should’ve gotten the nod or, worst case, emerged with a draw.

    • i watch the fight for joe smith but his headpatting skill made me rethink a several times. the ref is meh, blind

  • In every sport there is a clear cut winner or loser. Boxing is a whole lot different, even more so than ufc.

    This is what makes boxing so damn incredible!
    The unknown, the guy ie James toney losing every round and knocks out Michael nunn!
    Quit bitching about bad decisions, boxing is the only sport that takes people opinions after the fact, yrs and yrs later. No bother sport offers this!

    Joe Smith is a SOB, a great story made for tv and everybody is too caught up bitching saying he lost the fight
    Bottom line. We saw a war tonight and these two guys left it in the ring.

    We as fans won tonight!

  • Here is the problem that no one is addressing, but I have for quite a few years. Why is it okey to have only American judges and even a referee when an American boxer is boxing a foreigner? Yes Vlasov I guess does sign the contract for the fight, but if he does not fight, he does not make any money. From what I am reading, if this match were in Russia, who do you think would have won. Imagine the outrage also if they were only Russian judges. Probalby a rematch needs to be ordered.

    • Absolutely no doubt. For every bad decision in a foreign country, there are 5 bad ones in the US. I get that in a lot of cases the money is right in the US, but the fix always seems in against non-North American fighters. Given this is a global sport, there needs to be global representation wherever the fights are staged. A single, unified international body to have oversight wouldn’t hurt one bit, because clearly the sanctioning bodies aren’t cutting it.

      • A single honest organization would go a long way toward making boxing relevant again. Judges corrupted by promoters is a problem not going away with these organizations who are often on the take as well.

  • Those that we’re saying Smith was going to knock out Vlasov are typical fightnews casuals who know nothing about boxing. Smith should have won tonight’s fight and the scorecards were correct for a change, but the kid from Long Island was in a life or death fight tonight against this Russian. He will get demolished if he fights Beterbiev, and he already got definitively beaten by Bivol. Smith is just a big strong guy who can punch, but he can’t box at world level.

    • Good point. That’s what makes boxing so unique. A puncher’s chance can be a threat to anyone in the ring when boxing skills are not a priority. Anything can happen!

      • Missed it after ESPN shut off for 1/2 an hour. Don’t know how I did that. Look at Rocky Marciano. Few great boxing skills, but a cast iron chin, incredible endurance and the heart of a lion no one could stop. He made you give up. Best ever champion with few skills, but the very basic fundamentals in my opinion.

  • “This was my opportunity to show the world I was a world champion and I did that and Joe Smith knows I did that.” Bull shit! Smith won this fight absolutely no doubt. Vlasov reminds me of Gianfranco Rosi a pest of a fighter with herky jerky uncoordinated movement and no power that made everybody look bad.

    I’m glad Smith got the decision. I have tons of respect for him especially for the royal ass kicking he gave to the classless Bernard “I’ll Never Lose to a White Boy” Hopkins. I am looking forward to a 175lb unification.

    • Joe Smith couldn’t hold Hopkins jock strap in his prime, or will never come close to making any where near the amount of money in his bank account. Its called marketing; get over the comment, champ, its not that serious. That comment gets said in the “Hood” everyday in all major sports; its all in fun and competition. Why don’t you say the same thing about James Jeffries refusing to fight Jack Johnson and retired instead?

      • “It’s called marketing, get over the comment….it’s not all that serious.” Perhaps, but what about when the players’ roles are reversed: as would be the case had Smith insulted Hopkins with a “Black BOY” taunt? — then it becomes ultra-serious. Preferred treatment is pure double-standardized hypocrisy. It’s okay for one group to do or say such and such a thing, but terribly wrong when another group does or says the exact same thing. But I will agree with you that Bernard Hopkins, in spite of his race-bating comments, is in a different league altogether than Joe Smith. I never saw him ever in danger in any of his many fights until he reached the end of his career, against the formidable Kovalev and power-punching Smith — by whom he was finally knocked completely out of the ring. And, yet, I’m persuaded that he could still beat most of the world-class middleweights up until his retirement — that’s how good he was. But to say smith isn’t capable of holding Hopkins’ jock strap reminds us of the arrogant comment that Larry Holmes made about Marciano not being capable of holding up HIS jock strap. And yet, contrary to Holmes’ dismissive evaluation of the man, Marciano went down in history as one of the truly great heavyweight champions — right alongside of Joe Louis, Ali , Dempsey, Lewis, the Klitchkos, and Mr. Holmes himself. It’s disgusting to see a great fighter smear another great fighter — especially for reasons fueled by racism. All said, my personal choice as candidate for the greatest of that group of acknowledged greats is Joe Louis (hands down).

  • Entertaining fight. Bad decision.

    Vlasovs statement above is crystal clear and says it all. He won the fight but it will never be seen in the record books.

    Mr infected-by-Corona-covid19-less-than-two-months-ago took the initiative and gave Smith Jr no room for his attacks much of the fight.

    To be honest, I think Smith Jr looked confused and didn’t know what to do. He was more or less schooled in many rounds. Vlasov kept him busy and gave him no time. Smith Jr was swinging but he often missed or hit Vlasovs guard. Vlasov more often found his way throw and connected repeatedly. Enough to secure, control and close the rounds. Indeed he was “securing rounds in the bank”.

    Rounds 11 and 12 didn’t flip the coin.

    I think this fight smelled bad even before the actual fight happened.

    If you’re an investor you buy the prospect that will potentially yield most profit in the future. Seems to be the case in boxing too. There have been some shady and bad decisions in big fights lately. The one with greatest profit potential always win.

    • Smith has some marketability, but the way he takes punches, Beterbiev is gonna beat the brains out of his head. Beterbiev doesn’t always look pretty, but he’s a stone cold killer with wicked concussive power.

  • Nigel Benn. 1 of the Hardest puncher Ever. Glad too see his son doing good

  • Big Vlasov fan – I didn’t see the fight but I think Smyth deserves the belt for now.

  • Vlasov had Smith confused and unbalanced most of the fight. Everytime Smith set to punch, Vlasov would push him off balance and have to reset. Vlasov was the much busier fighter and threw punches from all angles. I cringed every time Smith swung and missed, sometimes missing by a foot or more. He seemed determined to avoid the body for some strange reason. Maybe he’s just not a body puncher, but when he did throw to the body, Vlasov was affected and seemed to slow down for a moment or two.

    Vlasov should have gotten the nod, but Smith was the bigger name and got an undeserved decision. It was a really close fight and Smith seemed to be throwing punches while on his toes and mostly to the head. Those punches were not effective because he wasn’t throwing and landing from a set stance. Vlasov just had him backing up all night and covering up from an avalanche of punches from all angles. Most of those punches were just annoying, but he occasionally landed meaningful right hands that stunned Smith.

    This fight was something Smith had to endure and struggle through. As the old saying goes, win now and look good next time. Except he shouldn’t have won this time.

    • 9/10 times your analysis is spot on. On this fight, I think you’ve undervalued Smith’s cleaner, harder shots. Close fight. I certainly wouldn’t have been shocked if it went the other way. But the championship rounds tilted to Smith in a very clear way. I think the judges got it right.

  • Was pulling for Smith to win but honestly there is no way he won, I gave Smith only the 2nd, 7th, 11th, & 12th rounds, I had Vlasov winning 116-112. Smith was blessed with a home country win. He will get destroyed by Beterbiev if & when they meet.

  • bad decision beterbiev destrys smith sends him into retirement and back to his union job

  • This is a joke.Smith lost the fight and he knows that.This is a scandal not a decision.

  • Good Fight. I wanted Smith to win but he lost by 2 points. Not sure what happened in the 11th round (knockdown/knockout?). Looked like a knockdown but I will review again. I think Joe should do a rematch with Vlasov rather than fight the other champions. I see Joe winning the rematch. At least this way he could keep the belt in a defense. Rock!

  • Close fight. I didn’t score it with pencil and paper but I didn’t know which way it was going to go. No robbery. The pearl clutching crowd screaming robbery are drama queens.

  • Great fight!!! I agree with the judges because Joe landed the harder punches. With that said, the judges could have said Joe lost and I would have agreed too because of the way Vlasov controlled the fight, came forward and threw a high rate of punches. This to me means they have to fight again!!! This could have also, easily had been a draw. Joe didn’t win because of the fight but because of the judges.

  • I had it 115-113 Vlasov. He pressed the fight backing Smith up for much of it. I thought he could have scored with more combinations than he did when backed him into a corner or against the ropes. Smith rallied in the last 2 rounds giving him the win on the scorecards. But I didn’t think it was enough.

  • easy to judge fights from the comfort in our t.v. room, for me it was a hard close fight, they both deserve the win, draw would have been good, rematch should be mandatory, can’t help but to think smith would do better in 2nd fight, with more jabs and straighter right hands

  • All I can say is anyone who has the balls to step into the ring is a warrior. I tried before and the punishment proved to be too much for the long haul. I was like WTF am I doing here? Love the sport though. I can see why so many say its at least 50-75% mental. I think most men that like the sport live through those that they are watching. Most people have no clue what it entails. Or how it hurts. Most people in general can’t take a punch. Brutal brutal game. Just an off the wall comment. Missed the fight after ESPN shut off. First time I did that. Watched the seals documentaries instead. Sounds like I missed a decent fight.

    • I like your transparency, and the manner in which you put the tough sport of boxing into such a simple perspective that’s easy for some of us to identify with. In some ways, I can relate to your summary. While doing time, way back in my younger years, there was amateur boxing competition; and I (for some odd reason found pleasure by involving myself with it). I had quite a few bouts with a whole spectrum of skill levels, and probably ended up winning and losing about the same amount of fights. But every time I faced an opponent who possessed decent skills, I got the snot beat out me (LOL). My only consolation was in the fact that I was never stopped or even knocked down. But my jaw-bone gives me problems to this very day.

  • I thought Smith won by a point, but a draw wouldn’t have been a bad duke. Neither one is a really skilled fighter, but they did have a lively bout. I think they should rematch them in about three months, but that won’t happen.

  • Smith would have stopped Vlasov If the referee Hadn’t stepped in. IMO. It was a rough fight and both had taken borderline punches, Why step in then? The punches before that had Vlasov in serious trouble. I thought Smith was about done after round nine. He really showed some determination to come back like he did. His conditioning will need to be in the Marciano category to beat the top guys.

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