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Smith Jr: I’d like to face Beterbiev once I win the world title

Smith Jr clashes with Vlasov for vacant WBO Light Heavyweight title in Vegas on Feb 13

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Joe Smith Jr faces Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight world title on February 13 in Las Vegas Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Joe Smith Jr faces Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight world title on February 13 in Las Vegas Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Joe Smith Jr says he will target a unification clash with Artur Beterbiev, should he successfully claim the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight crown against Maxim Vlasov on February 13.

Smith Jr and Vlasov contest the belt vacated by four-weight world champion, Canelo Alvarez inside the Top Rank Bubble in Las Vegas next month.

Smith Jr looks to secure a maiden world title at the second attempt, following defeat to WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in 2019 and the New Yorker says unified WBC and IBF titlist and Top Rank stablemate, Beterbiev is on the top of his hitlist should he come through his countryman, Vlasov.

“That’s the first fight [Beterbiev] I’m looking for once I get that belt,” the 31-year-old told proboxing-fans.com.

“I’d like to get the Beterbiev fight right away, whenever he’s ready.

“I’ve got to get the belt and then I want to get his two belts and then if we can make it quick enough I’d like to get Bivol.

Joe Smith Jr sent Eleider Alvarez crashing through the ropes in August Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Joe Smith Jr sent Eleider Alvarez crashing through the ropes in August Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“I believe that fight [against Beterbiev] can happen, I just hope when it does happen, when the time is set, he’s ready.

“I believe with our power the both of us, I think we’re probably the two hardest hitting light heavyweights out there and it’s just going to make for a good fight and we’re both very aggressive so it’ll definitely be a good fight.”

‘The Irish Bomber’ stopped former world champion Eleider Alvarez in nine rounds in August to pick up his second win of the year, having taken a split decision over Jesse Hart last January.

Vlasov, who was set to face Umar Salamov prior to his compatriot testing positive for COVID-19, has not fought since beating Emmanuel Martey in November 2019, but the 34-year-old has not been stopped in only three losses in 48 fights.

However, Smith Jr believes he has the power to trouble his opponent.

“I believe it’s possible,” Smith replied when quizzed on if he could halt Vlasov.

“I’ve already proved it, I’ve got great power, I’ve stopped guys who have fought the best in the world and never been stopped and I was the one to do it to them.

“I’m hoping to do it, but I’m not going to be looking for it.

“He’s definitely a very, very busy fighter, he throws a lot of punches and I think the plan is to just punch with him and I think I could over power him and slow him down.”

Smith Jr rose to prominence after stopping former lineal champion, Bernard Hopkins in his farewell fight in 2016, however he insists victory over Vlasov would surpass that achievement.

Reflecting on the win over ‘The Executioner’, Smith Jr added: “I’m definitely proud of that accomplishment.

“What made it great was that he kind of overlooked me a little bit, he chose me for a reason and it just motivated me and I came out and put on a great show and that’s something that’s going to be remembered forever in history.

Smith Jr sent Bernard Hopkins into retirement in 2016 Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports
Smith Jr sent Bernard Hopkins into retirement in 2016 Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

“It was amazing, It’s going to be hard to top that one, but once I win a world championship it’ll be great, because it shows he fought one of the best fighters in the world going out of the game and eventually I became a world champion after I beat him.

“So, it’ll look good for him and me.”

Watch the full interview with Joe Smith Jr below where he also discusses a potential clash with Callum Johnson, reflects on Lyndon Arthur’s win over Anthony Yarde and rates Artur Beterbiev’s chances of beating Canelo Alvarez, if the pair met in the future:

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