Joe Smith Jr believes that if he wants to take his career to the next level then he must defeat Maxim Vlasov at the MGM Grand on Saturday night, live on eir sport.
Smith and Vlasov will be fighting for the WBO light heavyweight title which was vacated by Canelo Alvarez less than a month after he stopped Sergey Kovalev in November 2019.
The Long Island native goes into Saturday's bout on the back of his defeat of Eleider Alvarez in August, while he will be remembered for knocking out former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins in December 2016.
Despite his previous success in the ring, the 31-year-old believes he must defeat Vlasov to ensure he moves forward and does not have to start over.
"Honestly, it is everything to me right now," Smith told eir sport in an exclusive interview with Connor Morris. "I need to win this world title to continue and move forward to get to the next level. This fight will determine if I have what it takes to get to the next level or I am going to go backwards and pretty much have to start over and be nothing.
"I have to win this one. Everything is on the line."
While he has enjoyed great success in the ring, Smith remains humble and he puts it down to the fact that he continues to work as co-owner of a tree-trimming business with his father in Long Island.
"I opened a tree business with my father, but when I am training he is out there running the business with my family, it's pretty much a family business, and they keep everything up and running while I'm gone," he explained.
"I enjoy going to the job sites when I can, it keeps you humble I guess, you know what it's like to get up and go to work everyday."
Raised in Long Island, New York, Smith is known as The Irish Bomber and remains proud of his roots, often sporting the tricolour in the ring.
"I'm Irish-American born and bred here in the US. I wear the colours here and there and I enjoy it," he added.
"It's Long Island there are a lot of Irish everywhere especially on St Patrick's Day they have the St Paddy's Day parade and a lot of people get together to celebrate, it's awesome.
"I'm definitely proud of my roots in Long Island, it's where I came from, I grew up working, getting up early and heading into work and now I’m at a point where I still have to work but I can take off for these big fights and go back to it when I am ready."
Irish-American Joe Smith Jr takes on Russia’s Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBO World Light Heavyweight title live on eir sport on Saturday, 13 February.
Image: Getty Images