EXCLUSIVE: Joe Smith Jr. defense done as Daniel Jacobs talks progress
WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe Smith Jr. will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Umar Salamov on Oct. 30 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Smith promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing told World Boxing News on Friday.
It will be a homecoming fight for Smith, a popular draw from New York’s Long Island.
The fight will air on a Top Rank card on an ESPN platform in the United States and in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports, where Top Rank is a few months into a new multi-year deal. Top Rank confirmed the date and site.
Initially, plans were for the fight to take place on Oct. 23, but Top Rank, which will be working with DeGuardia on a fourth consecutive Smith fight, instead of scheduled junior lightweight titlist Jamel Herring’s mandatory defense against interim titlist Shakur Stevenson for that date at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
“For Joe to be fighting at home, it’s the kind of thing a fighter can really get motivated for,” DeGuardia said. “Certainly, coming back and doing the defense at Madison Square Garden in the Theater and doing it in front of your fans is huge. We built him in New York and on Long Island, but all of his bigger fights have not been here, so to be able to defend his title for the first time in New York is big for Joe. It’s going to be special for him to fight there.”
Smith has not fought in the metro New York region since a 2016 knockout of Fabiano Pena on DeGuardia’s series of cards at The Paramount in Huntington, New York.
Smith’s more significant fights have come around the United States in places such as Chicago, the Los Angeles area, Atlantic City, New Jersey, update New York in Verona and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Smith is coming off a hard-fought majority decision in a slugfest with Maxim Vlasov to win the vacant 175-pound title on April 10 at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, eking out the decision 115-113, 115-112, and 114-114.
Now the 31-year-old Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) will move on to face Salamov (26-1, 19 KOs), 27, a 6-foot-3½ Russian.
“It’s a difficult fight because Salamov is a tough guy, even if he is not well known,” DeGuardia said. “It’s a tough fight, but we are doing it because Joe wants to get back in the ring. You can’t just keep waiting on guys who are not prepared to take a fight with him. They know who they are.”
DeGuardia was speaking specifically about WBC/IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs), 36, a Montreal-based Russian, who Smith had hoped to face next in a unification fight. Beterbiev also said he wanted to next face Smith before and after his 10th-round knockout of mandatory challenger Adam Deines on March 20. However, he apparently changed his mind.
“You can’t keep a guy sitting on the shelf hoping to get the fight he wanted,” DeGuardia said. “Very, very much he wanted that fight (with Beterbiev).
“Why didn’t he get it? You have to ask Beterbiev about that. When all is said and done, we take care of this fight with Salamov, and then what we envision is a huge 2022.
“But we are not looking past this guy. Salamov is a big strong guy, who’s young and fresh and bigger than (the 6-foot) Joe.”
DeGuardia said the hope is Smith will defeat Salamov and move onto a much bigger fight, probably with former middleweight world titlist Daniel Jacobs, who is now fighting at super middleweight, early next year.
“The key is having this fight take place. We’re in a world where so many things change. So, I want us to stay focused on this fight. Joe has been anxiously awaiting this title defense. He’s very fortunate that it won’t be that long since his last fight that he will be back in the ring defending his title.”
And then the hope is for the fight with Brooklyn, New York’s Jacobs for what would be a very significant fight in New York.
“Certainly, a Joe Smith vs. Daniel Jacobs fight in New York would be a huge fight. That is something as a promoter I’d like to do,” DeGuardia said.
The sides have already been engaged in discussions about a deal, and both sides are interested.
“We’re beyond the stage of both sides liking it,” DeGuardia said. “We all have the expectation that after October, we will pursue making that fight.
“When you look at the landscape and the type of fight that would be for New York, that’s the fight we want to be in. It’s a mega-fight in New York and would get tremendous coverage and enthusiasm from the fans in New York, and that makes the fight very, very appealing.”