Joe Smith already had the rest of the month planned out by the time he hit the Las Vegas strip—win the light heavyweight title, get married, enjoy his honeymoon and hunt down his next divisional target.
One out of four isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things.
The phone call came during on the day of the final pre-fight press conference that Smith (26-3, 21KOs) was no longer due to fight that Saturday after opponent Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs) tested positive for COVID-19. In an instant, dreams of holding that WBO light heavyweight title were gone and his desire to nail down a long-desired showdown with lineal champion Artur Beterbiev placed on hold.
“Thankfully, we were able to move forward with the wedding,” Smith told BoxingScene.com in his best effort to remain positive in recalling the entire ordeal. “Right after the wedding, I went right back to training.
“I was able to enjoy married life for a day or two and then right back to the gym.”
Co-promoters Top Rank and Star Boxing were able to work feverishly to get the vacant WBO light heavyweight title fight back on the books. The Feb. 13th show moved on without the fight, which will now headline the April 10 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. The location has moved as well, transferring from the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas to the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It meant back-to-back full training camps for Smith, who hails from the Mastic Beach section of Eastern Long Island, New York. A win on Saturday will make Smith the fourth-ever boxer born and raised in Long Island to win a major title, though there still remains unfinished business well beyond Saturday.
“I was happy they got it done so soon,” notes Smith. “When I got to the bubble, I was in great shape and ready to go. My wedding was planned for the week after and our honeymoon right after that. We had to reschedule the honeymoon.
“It affected my wife, her family, my family. My girlfriend—my wife now—she knows what’s at stake. She got right on the phone, started calling people and moving things around. We went through a lot of changes in just one week. Fight gets canceled and then I get married. It was a stressful couple of weeks but we got through it. Now it’s time to do it again, this time actually get to fight and win that world title.”
The plan from there is to secure a three-belt showdown with Beterbiev (16-0, 16KOs), the reigning lineal champion and unified WBC/IBF titlist who returned from a 21-month layoff to score a 10th round layoff of Adam Deines in March. Hopes are for a head-on collision later this year, though not before Smith first takes care of one other important matter.
“Right now, all I have on my mind is getting this guy (Vlasov) out of there as early as possible and then enjoying my honeymoon,” notes Smith. “I plan on going away right after the fight. We’re doing our honeymoon as soon as this fight is over.
“Once we get back, the goal is to hunt down Beterbiev and become a unified world champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox