Joe Smith Jr. will have to keep waiting to defend his WBO light heavyweight title. Callum Johnson, his planned opponent on January 15, had to withdraw from the fight after testing positive for COVID-19.
ESPN’s Mike Coppinger was the first to report the news. Top Rank officials are working to find a new opponent for Smith. Promoter Frank Warren told BBC Sport What do you expect Smith vs. Johnson can rebook soon.
“It’s a real shame for Callum,” Warren said. “Hopefully we can get it back, they might want [reschedule the fight] late spring. He worked really hard for the opportunity. “
Johnson, a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, made his professional debut that year. Johnson, a former British and Commonwealth light heavyweight champion, lost to Artur Beterbiev in 2018 for the IBF light heavyweight title. Since then, he has won three in a row, his last fight being a majority decision win over Server Emurlaev in October.
Smith made his professional debut in 2009. He won the WBO light heavyweight title last April against Maxim Vlasov. He tested positive for COVID during 2021.
Although no new opponent is known and Johnson is still looking to fight for the title, Warren hopes Smith can face Anthony Yarde.
“I would love to do Joe Smith against Anthony Yarde in the UK,” Warren said. “The WBO says there is a mandatory duel and it will be Yarde. He is No. 1 [challenger]. Anthony looked so good in his last fight against Lyndon Arthur. Anyway, we have him willing to fight sometime in March. Fingers crossed. We’ll see what happens next week with Smith and how he recovers, then we’ll go from there. “
Yarde, 30, made his professional debut in 2015. A former WBO European and Intercontinental Light Heavyweight Champion, he lost to Sergey Kovalev in 2019 for the WBO light heavyweight title. He has gone 4-1 since then. In his last fight, he beat Arthur in their rematch last December to capture the Commonwealth and WBO Intercontinental light heavyweight titles.
“The experience you have gained from [fighting] Sergey Kovalev is very helpful, “Warren said.” It really gives Smith a lot of trouble.
Also interested in fighting Smith is the undisputed super middleweight king Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez.