As disappointing as it was for Joe Smith Jr. to leave Las Vegas without a fight to show for it, the development was an even greater letdown to the alleged offending party.
Maxim Vlasov was dealt with the devastating news that he had tested positive for COVID-19, thus canceling plans for his Feb. 13th vacant WBO light heavyweight title fight with Smith at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The news caught the 34-year-old Russian by surprise, as believed himself to be—much like his opponent—in the best shape of his career for perhaps his biggest fight as a pro.
“I was very shocked and overwhelmed by the news that the fight was postponed due to the COVID test,” Vlasov recalled during a recent Zoom media conference call ahead of their rescheduled bout this weekend. “I was in excellent shape and was ready to go.
“This time it’s harder. I had less time to prepare due to the quick turnaround. But I made the most of my progress and look forward to the fight.”
The two meet up this Saturday, live on ESPN beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET (9:00 p.m. local time) from a sold-out Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A six-week delay seems relatively painless in the grand scheme of things, especially considering that Vlasov (45-3, 28KOs) already hasn’t fought since a 10-round shutout of unbeaten Emmanuel Martey in Nov. 2019. It also meant a shorter training camp, which really became about maintaining from where he was at heading into his previously scheduled title fight with Smith (26-3, 21KOs).
“I did not have to recover (physically) since I still believe that it was a false positive,” insists Vlasov. “I never felt any of the symptoms. I felt excellent, it was just the test that showed I was positive.
“The hardest thing was the time lost. I had to quarantine in Las Vegas—I had to spend 10 days in Las Vegas and then fly home and adjust to the climate change. Then I had to end camp in order to fly back over here for this fight. But as far as the recovery process, there was none. I was always in excellent health and shape.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox