By: Hans Themistode
Joe Smith Jr. appears to be on his way to defending his newly won WBO light heavyweight title against once beaten contender, Umar Salamov.
As first reported by Mike Coppinger of ESPN, the pair have placed their signatures on the dotted line for a showdown that is being targeted for sometime in October or November later this year. The most likely destination for their contest would be The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Since suffering defeat at the hands of journeymen Damien Hooper in 2017, Salamov has been on a roll, winning seven straight. Regardless of his recent streak, Salamov (26-1, 19 KOs) figures to be a massive underdog against Smith Jr. The 31-year-old has had a career filled with plenty of highs, including unlikely wins against Andrzej Fonfara, Eleider Alvarez, and Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. Smith Jr. has seen several low points. From mid-2017 to early 2019, the Long Island New York native lost two of his three contests.
Still, Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) continued to chug along and reeled off two straight victories before picking up the first world title of his career against Maxim Vlasov earlier this year in April.
A win for Smith Jr. would not only solidify himself amongst the elite of the 175-pound division but it would likely set up quite possibly the most significant contest of his career. For the past several months, talks have been ongoing between Smith Jr. and former 160-pound champion and current 168-pound contender, Daniel Jacobs.
The two could meet in a clash that would see Jacobs move up a weight class to challenge Smith Jr. for his world title. A deal between the pair, of course, is contingent upon Smith Jr. and his ability to get past Salamov.
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