In a perfect world, Maxim Vlasov would have been back in the ring long ago.
Sadly, the universe would not allow him to fight, several times, in the last few months.
The veteran light heavyweight contender continues to go with the flow, confident that through patience would come good fortune. A planned title eliminator versus Umar Salamov was delayed several times before securing a fight date to have come last November. The fight was canceled altogether when Salamov tested positive for COVID, thus unable to compete in the WBO-sanctioned four-man light heavyweight title.
“I was ready to fight Salamov and confident that I would beat him,” Vlasov told BoxingScene.com. “I wish we had the chance to fight but it didn’t happen.”
Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs) was instead offered a straightaway shot for the vacant title versus Joe Smith Jr. (25-3, 21KOs), who did his part by stopping former champ Eleider Alvarez inside of nine rounds last August. The final leg of the tournament was set to take place in February at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, only for Vlasov to test positive for COVID and thus delaying plans.
The ESPN televised fight has been rescheduled to take place on April 10, from Tulsa's Osage Casino.
The 34-year old from Samara, Russia is riding a three-fight win streak, all since moving down from cruiserweight following a 12-round loss to former champ Krzysztof Glowacki in Oct. 2018. The last of his latest stretch came in a 10-round shutout win over Emmanuel Martey in Nov. 2019.
Efforts to land on a firm date with Salamov proved futile. The bout was first delayed due to an effort to stage the fight in the United States—specifically, to have been packaged with the Smith-Alvarez fight—and then from circumstances beyond everyone’s control, a common theme during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Salamov ultimately withdrew from the tournament altogether following his positive COVID test last fall.
Smith enters on the heels of a strong 2020 campaign, which began with a 10-round win over former two-time title challenger Jesse Hart last January followed by his aforementioned knockout of Alvarez. The knockout artist from Eastern Long Island, New York was a significant favorite, though Vlasov was prepared to take on the dangerous task following the longest layoff of his 16-year career.
“You have to take risks to win big fights,” notes Vlasov. “This is my big chance to become a world champion, to bring the title back home to Russia. I am excited and I am ready for this.
“I’ve waited a long time to [return to the ring] but even longer to become world champion. This is why I fight.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox