Smith confident ahead of Jupp rematch
Luke Byron speaks to Mitchell Smith ahead of his crunch rematch with George Jupp later this year...
On 6 May Mitchell Smith has the chance to avenge the only loss of his professional career so far when he faces off against George Jupp in a rematch of their meeting at the Manchester Arena back in December 2015, which ended in a unanimous points loss for the 'Baby Faced Assassin'.
Since the defeat, the Harrow super featherweight has had plenty of time to reflect; he took a ten-month hiatus from the ring before returning with a stoppage victory against Norwin Galo in October.
Now under the tutelage of Adam Booth, Smith is looking to demonstrate the potential that he has promised since he first appeared on the scene as a young prospect. Looking back to his comeback fight on home turf at the Harrow Leisure Centre last October, he tells Boxing Monthly that it was "exciting" and "just felt right".
It was the first time he laced the gloves up for real under the guidance of Booth, who he credits with reigniting his enjoyment of boxing.
"I did feel like leaving the sport before working with Adam Booth," he admits. Previously, Smith had fallen into something of a ‘party-boy’ lifestyle and he had some tough decisions to make before committing to life as a paid athlete.
"I never used to like training, all I used to like was fighting," he confesses. "I had to come to circumstances with myself and decide if I was gonna do it properly."
Having seen the result of not respecting the sport enough previously, he insists he isn't prepared to let this happen again.
Now that he has experienced being back under the lights, ‘King Mitch’ has a fight that he can really dig his teeth into.
"Training’s going great," he tells me. Team ‘BoxingBooth’ seems to be an ever growing stable and that suits Smith just fine, as he explains. "We’ve got a great stable, I’m surrounded by current world champions, former world champions and potential world champions and we’re pushing each other day in and day out. It’s nice to be in the gym with people that have the same dreams and it just seems like a perfect team at the moment."
In the past, working with such a sizeable team wouldn’t have been so ideal, as the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ admits when looking back at his old training habits. "When I was with Jason Rowland, I used to like training on my own, but I couldn’t think of anything worse now," he says. "I never used to like competition, but now we’re all competing with each other, if someone throws six shots, then the other wants to throw eight shots."
In many ways, the Jupp rematch can be seen as a potentially career-defining fight - win and Mitchell is right back in the same position that earned him the honour of ‘Boxing Writers’ Young Boxer of the Year’ back in 2015; lose and the 24-year-old will be right back to where he has so desperately been clawing his way back from.
Smith has opted to remain in the gym and keep improving, rather than work towards a tick-over fight ahead of the 6 May show at the Copper Box in London.
It would be understandable if he were to be feeling extra pressure ahead of this one, but he remains confident. "Everyone has this down as a rematch, I’ve just got this down as a job that I need to do. I can understand why people would think there’s pressure, because he’s beat me before and he could beat me again, but a fit and focused Mitchell Smith will not be beaten by George Jupp, not even the best George Jupp.
"That’s not meant as disrespect," he then clarifies, before adding: "[For the first fight] I just wasn’t dedicated, I wasn’t living the life, and I got found out."
Before last week, the only previous time I had spoken to Mitchell was in September last year, and on this occasion it was almost as if I was speaking to a new person. Now hat’s not to say that he was anything but pleasant previously, but there is a renewed air of confidence this time around, and you can sense the excitement in his voice as he talks about his plans for this fight and for the heights he plans to reach – especially under the guidance of Booth who seems to have made a real impact on him.
"I feel that up to now, I’ve relied on raw talent in my career, and that’s not me faulting Jason Rowland," Smith explains."I feel that he taught me everything that he could possibly teach me, and now I’ve moved on to Adam, I’m being taught as a world class fighter instead of the level of the British title max.
"I’ve come on bundles in terms of growing up as well, learning about life and living right, training right and that’s just brought me on as a person and a fighter. Nobody has seen the best of me yet, and it will be scary when I’m able to just get in there and take out these people and look good.
"I’ve got so much in the locker that nobody has seen, and it is frustrating as I’ve let myself down, and that’s why people haven’t seen it. But at the same time, it’s now exciting as when it does happen, it’ll happen so quickly and I’ll just go from one level to another. Adam thinks I’m ready, I think I’m ready and we’ll go from one fight to another, and you’ll see the change."
If the Harrow man can fulfil his potential then it can come at no better time than now with the emergence of BT Sport as a powerhouse in British boxing, following the newly confirmed deal with Frank Warren.
"I feel very privileged and honoured to be boxing on BT Sport, and I’ve got to thank Frank Warren for that," Smith says of the new opportunities that are now presenting themselves. "Hopefully worldwide now my face can start showing up, and I’ll start fitting where I should. I think my style of fighting is entertaining and after a couple of fights then we’ll be in a different situation. I think I’m the type of fighter that can be on the tips of people's tongues."
Warren recently confirmed Leeds-based Featherweight Josh Warrington as a major signing - with a fight between the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ and Warrington having been debated previously between the pair on social media and both men now under the same promotional stable, it looks like a showdown can could loom in the future
"It can be made so easily," Smith confirms. "But obviously I have to prove myself. He has done that, and I was doing that before I made a balls-up. Once that’s done, I really don’t think there’s a another British fight that can be made that’s as good as that."
Much has been made of the difference in weight between the pair, but it’s fair to say that Smith doesn’t think much of the retorts made by those opposing the bout. "Obviously there’s a four-pound weight difference and I see people keep writing on Twitter about it, but people don’t understand that four pounds is the difference of whether you have a shit in the morning!"
Before any future plans are made though, Smith is well aware that he needs to overcome Jupp on 6 May as part of the undercard to British Welterweight Champion Bradley Skeete’s defence against Shayne Singleton.
If the chemistry in the ring with new coach Adam Booth is as positive as it sounds, then the Harrow man is in a great position to exact revenge and begin his journey towards greater things.