The month of March was a quiet one domestically for Top Rank and ESPN but April will certainly not be.
Top Rank has moved out of the bubble and is hosting their first domestic post-bubble event in Tulsa, OK this Saturday night.
The vacant WBO Light Heavyweight title will be on the line when Joe Smith Jr. (26-3) faces off against the Russian Maxim Vlasov (45-3).
There is a lot at stake as the winner may have the opportunity for a unification fight later this year. Most fans are foaming at the mouth when thinking of a possible matchup between Smith Jr and unified champion Arthur Beterbiev (16-0).
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, Joe Smith Jr. has to handle his business on Saturday night, which figures to be no walk in the park. I checked in with Joe Smith Jr. to discuss boxing, marriage and his tree services business.
AG: Joe, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You have had quite the roller coaster the last five years. You sent a future hall of famer flying out of the ring, broke your jaw against Barrera, lost to Bivol but then came right back and won two in a row. Can you describe what these last five years have been for you?
JS: It’s been made up of a lot of ups and downs. We are on a roll now winning two in a row and I plan on keeping it that way. I’m getting a lot of work in the gym and continuing to work on my boxing.
AG: Outside of boxing, most know that you have a tree services business. How much of an impact has the pandemic had if any, on your business?
JS: It did a little in the beginning. My tree business was slow for a little bit but work is now starting to pick up since the nice weather is coming which is always good.
AG: With you having a business, what does a normal day look like when you’re preparing for a fight?
JS: Right now, all I am doing is training and doing what I have to do to win this fight. My father runs the business, does all of the estimates, sells the jobs and runs the crew. He handles everything when I am gone. When I am not training for a fight, I pop up to job sites to make sure everything is going well. Outside of that, my father handles it all.
AG: This fight with Maxim was originally slated for February but was postponed due to him testing positive for COVID. What was your initial reaction when you were informed about the postponement?
JS: I found out about the COVID result the day before the weigh-in. It was pretty hard at that time, hearing the news after going through a whole 6–7-week training camp. I was ready to go for the fight and after hearing the news, it was heartbreaking. What made it worse was that I had my wedding planned for the week after. I still had my wedding, but I had to postpone the honeymoon. After the wedding, we got right back into it.
AG: You went ahead with the wedding as scheduled but ended up postponing the honeymoon. Many on social media commented that you were going to be in the “doghouse” for that one. How did your new wife take it?
JS: She was a little upset about that, but she knows what I go through and what I have on the line, so she understands. She went home, rescheduled everything and is just looking forward to it. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise as I now had more time to work and train.
AG: You are fighting Maxim Vlasov on the 10th. What do you know about him?
JS: I know he is an aggressive, busy guy. He has a lot of experience, tall and a little awkward. He is going to be right there giving it his best.
AG: You seem to have this organic fan base that follows you and your career. What do you say to those fans who continue to support you?
JS: I would like to thank all of my fans and love having people in my corner. I’m looking forward to getting out there on the 10th and winning the world title. Ready to get this fight in, win the world championship and make my dreams come true. I’m also looking forward to getting these bigger fights with hopefully Beterbiev or Bivol after this one.
AG: Where can fans follow you on social media?
Joe Smith Jr.’s promoter Star Boxing, headed by Joe DeGuardia, had this to say about their fighter leading up to the 10th: We would just like to say that Joe Smith relates to the common American man because that’s exactly what he is. He is a hardworking, no nonsense, blue collar banger. The postponement of his fight, while frustrating, was just another hurdle for Joe to overcome like he has done so many times in his career. Whenever Joe is in the ring it’s must watch TV. We are looking forward to April 10 and for Joe to bring that world title back to Long Island.
My Three Cents:
Joe Smith Jr. is a person that so many can relate to, which is why he has such a solid fan base. Smith Jr. has an opportunity to not only make a statement, and win a championship but also set himself up for some big paydays in the near future. Can Joe Smith Jr. put it all together on Saturday night and set up an all-action fight against the unified champion Arthur Beterbiev?
Tune into ESPN and don’t miss this fight that is sure to produce some big action.