After winning and retaining his WBO light-middle belt across the M62 in Manchester, unbeaten Scouse champ Liam Smith finally secures a home tie this Saturday when he defends his belt at The Echo Arena, writes Glynn Evans.
‘Whenever I fight in England, I want to fight in Liverpool,’ declares ‘Beefy’, third eldest of the four fighting champions, who swaps leather with Montenegro’s 30-1 Predrag Radosevic.
‘It’s been a special fight city for years but it was quiet of world champions. Now it’s back up where it belongs with two, both from the same (Rotunda) amateur gym. There’s a different buzz when you fight at home.’
It will be the 5ft 9in Joe Gallagher trained champion’s ninth pro start at the hallowed hall in Liverpool’s Docklands and he’s triumphed in each of the previous eight, stopping the last six rivals he’s faced there.
‘The Echo is a boss venue for boxing,’ says the 27 year old, a former ABA light-welter champion in 2008.
‘It’s one of the few halls where there’s no bad seats and we’ve had plenty of special nights there as a family. Regardless of how many it’s set up for, it’s always noisy. You can guarantee a great atmosphere.’
Liam might have been the least decorated amateur of the four fistic siblings – only embracing the sport at the age of 14 - but, thus far, he is the only one to score a professional world title. And after being extended to the cards in 11 of his first 16 paid gigs (one draw), this brutal body puncher has wasted all of his seven most recent victims inside seven rounds.
He explains: ‘Over the last couple of years I’ve developed my ‘man strength’ and matured into a proper 12 round championship fighter. My style’s finally coming together and I’m near the finished article; a good hard all rounder. I’m big at the weight, always come to fight. Not many can out tough me.’
In each of his last three outings, ‘Beefy’ dropped the guillotine in round seven, including his world title win over New Jersey’s John Thompson and maiden defence against unbeaten Manc Jimmy Kilrain Kelly.
‘It’s uncanny. If I could stop ‘em earlier I would,’ says Smith of his ‘Lucky Seven’.
‘I expected the Thompson fight to last about that long, to have to come from behind, but really should’ve stopped Jimmy Kelly anytime from round two onwards.
‘A lot of respected fight people rated Kelly beforehand and I thought: ‘Am I missing something here?’ I couldn’t ever see him troubling me. It was a very workmanlike performance, quite difficult to watch back on tape.’
Presently Smith’s confidence is soaring out of the stratosphere. He steadfastly maintains that he is the best 154lb fighting man on this planet and is prepared to front up against anyone who believes otherwise.
He actively pursues the super-fights that can enhance his legacy and his bank balance.
‘You just saw ‘Bomber’ (Tony Bellew) at Goodison, well now I want ‘Beefy’ at Anfield with all the Reds, my brothers, Derry (Mathews) and ‘Big Pricey’ (David Price) also on the bill. This city will support that scale of event. Obviously you’d need big name opposition for us all,’ says Smith, a lifelong follower of Liverpool FC.
‘(IBF welter boss) Kell Brook is the fight I’m pushing for. We’re mates, there’s a lot of mutual respect but when Eddie Hearn starts talking about Kell cleaning up at 154, I’m thinking: ‘Not while I’m there, you’re not’. They mentioned it, not me. I just responded, Frank put out an opening offer and now they’ve gone quiet.
‘If Kell fights (WBO welter king) Jesse Vargas instead of me, fair play to him. If his team picks a light-welter like Lamont Peterson when he’s talking of cleaning out at 154, it’s embarrassing, mate.
‘Amir Khan is also a friend who I see most days when he’s in the UK and I helped him prepare for his fight with ‘Canelo’. But this is business. I’d not gob off like Kell did to try to force a Khan fight but if they want it, it’s there’s. I’d be very confident. Size wise, Amir’s not very big at light-middle.
‘After I come through on Saturday, it has to be a big name super fight, UK or US. That means either of the Charlo twins in a unification, ‘Canelo’ in Vegas or my mandatory Miguel Cotto – one of my favourite fighters – at Madison Square Garden. But I’ve a job to do on Saturday first.’
And savvy Smith is not about to squander the bounties that beckon by overlooking Saturday’s voluntary challenger.
‘Radosevic is an unknown name rather than an unproven fighter,’ he stresses.
‘He was a good amateur and he’s only lost once – to a multiple world middleweight champion (Felix Sturm) – in 31 fights as a pro. Ok, there’s a few puddings on his record but he’s also beaten good men like Shalva Jomardashvili(just four losses in 38), Virgilijus Stapulionis (19-1) and Guiseppe Lauri (a four time European title challenger).
‘From the clips we’ve seen, he’s big, tough and solid. I’m expecting him to make me work, force me to have a fight, take me eight to ten hard rounds.
‘A stoppage late on would stand me in good stead for fights down the line but it’d be fantastic to blow him away spectacularly in a round or two to get everyone talking about me.’
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May 31, 2016