Joe Smith Jr. wins vacant WBO title, Efe Ajagba gets INSANE knockout

Joe Smith Jr Efe Ajagba

Mikey Williams

Boxing stars Joe Smith Jr. and Efe Ajagba both scored victories on Saturday night as Top Rank began the next phase of their re-opening.

Smith Jr., the common man with the common name, finally reached boxing’s apex. Smith used a furious late rally to edge Maxim Vlasov by majority decision and win the vacant WBO light heavyweight world title Saturday evening at Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The scorecards — 114-114, 115-113, and 115-112 — represented the bout’s nip-and-tuck nature.

Smith (27-3, 21 KOs), from Long Island, New York, swept the last two rounds on the cards to pull out the victory and joins promotional stablemate Jamel Herring as a Long Island-born world champion.

He now sets his sights on the division’s other champions, including WBC/IBF king Artur Beterbiev.

Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs), from Samara, Russia, saw his three-bout winning streak come to an end.

Smith said, “It’s a great feeling. It was definitely a close, tough fight. I give it to Vlasov. Great fighter. He really put on a great show tonight and toughed it out. I believe that round where I hurt him there.

“I believe he had his head down. But I should’ve got the knockout. I would’ve got the stoppage in {the 11th} round, but he pulled it off and made it out on his feet.

“I believe I got the victory tonight because they saw I landed the harder shots. He landed a lot of punches. It was a great fight.

“I want the other belts. I want the big fights out there. Now I gotta get back in the gym and keep working on my technique and stuff. I believe I’m going to start unifying belts.”

Vlasov disagrees with Smith’s assessment of the fight and believes the world title should be going home to Russia.

“This was a very hard-fought, competitive fight,” Vlasov said. “I thought I was winning rounds and was well ahead. Against the aggressive style of Joe Smith,

“I came forward the entire fight. But I felt confident I was winning and was securing rounds in the bank with the judges.

“I never felt that I was behind at any stage of the fight. This was my opportunity to show the world I was a world champion, and I did that, and Joe Smith knows I did that.”

Ajagba Obliterates Howard

Efe Ajagba (15-0, 12 KOs) just crashed the heavyweight contender parade.

The 2016 Nigerian Olympian sent Brian Howard into another orbit with a crunching right hand. Howard twisted fell face first, and the bout was immediately stopped.

Ajagba had not fought since last September’s decision to win over Jonathan Rice, but he re-established his place among the world’s top young heavyweights.

At 26 years old, time is on his side.

Ajagba said, “I felt good. I tried to pick the punches, use the jab. This guy is very slick sometimes. I tried to do the job.

“He was shaky, so when I went back to the corner after the first round, my coach told me to take my time, start with the body, leave the head.

“I trained for this fight, took my time, started with my boxing foundation, and came back strong. This camp was the best one for me, the best camp ever in my boxing career.

“It’s my time to shine, so I’m coming for the heavyweights.”

Other results:

Junior Lightweight: Albert Bell (18-0, 5 KOs) UD 8 Manuel Rey Rojas (20-5, 6 KOs). Scores: 78-74 3x.

Toledo’s Bell used his length and reached to keep the shorter Rojas at bay and ultimately cruised to a one-sided decision.

Bell, who outlined Rojas 114-94, is ranked in the top 15 by two major sanctioning organizations.

Junior Lightweight: Robson Conceicao (16-0, 8 KOs) TKO 7 Jesus Antonio Ahumada (17-4 11 KOs), 1:20.

2016 Olympic gold medalist Conceicao, from Bahia, Brazil, put forth a professional performance and beat down Mexican veteran Ahumada.

After a knockdown in the seventh, referee Gary Ritter saw enough and saved Ahumada from further carnage.

Featherweight: Duke Ragan (4-0, 1 KO) UD 6 Charles Clark (3-7,-1 1 KO). Scores: 60-54 3x.

In his first fight away from the confines of the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble, Cincinnati’s Ragan outboxed Clark and won every round on all three judges’ scorecards.

Through four pro bouts, Ragan has yet to lose any round.