Smith still chasing world title dream
This weekend Paul Smith enters his 42nd pro fight staring into something of a fresh start whilst looking over his shoulder as the words ‘last chance’ creep up on his 13-year career.
Liverpool’s Smith, 33, has been out of the ring since June 2015 where he stopped by Andre Ward in the ninth round in Oakland. A fight that Smith told Boxing Monthly he will never be happy with while holding his hands up to “a genuine, honest mistake” after failing to make the agreed 172lbs catchweight limit.
It was Smith’s third fight mixing at elite level, beginning with an outstanding performance against WBO 168lbs champion Arthur Abraham in September 2014, only to be cruelly denied by the scorecards. The rematch five months later returned similar numbers without the controversy; Smith had been beaten by the better man.
“September 2014 to September 2015 was the best year of my life on a personal level,” Smith (35-6, 20 KOs) told Boxing Monthly.
“I improved as a fighter a lot and I was getting shots I wanted. I was fighting on the world scene against two of the biggest names in the division. Topped the bill in the States, earned well and was active.”
Smith now enters a period, beginning at Liverpool’s Echo Arena this weekend, where the activity starts again. Activity that he hopes will earn him another world title shot - without jumping in at the deep end headfirst. A time to rebuild, stay fit and healthy and be ready should a third world title opportunity present itself.
“I wanted to jump back in with someone like Martin Murray or George Groves, then I thought why?” said Smith who looked at his friend Matthew Macklin’s career rebuild as inspiration.
“I’m not fucked, I’m not finished, and I’m not shot by any means. I’ve seen others fighters being rebuilt back who haven’t jumped straight back in. I watched my mate Macklin have a couple of eight-rounders here and there. He’s going to get a big shot.
“He could’ve jumped straight back in with [WBA regular middleweight champion Daniel] Jacobs or someone like that, but he never. He did it smart. I watched Martin Murray do it. He had two eight-rounders and got a shot against Arthur Abraham.
“Now he’s in a position where he wants to jump straight back in because he’s coming to the end, probably because he’s had four world title fights. I’ve had two world title fights and the Ward fight was just a write-off for me. It was an opportunity I took too soon.”
Opportunity was a word used frequently by Smith when BM spoke to him. His move from 160lbs to 168lbs, eight years ago, was down to the opportunities Smith could see brewing at super-middleweight along with his body saying no more to 11st 6lbs.
Chances took a long time to present themselves but with his displays against Abraham, in particular, it would be no shock to see the Sky boxing pundit pitched in with either WBA champion Felix Sturm (Super] or Giovanni De Carolis [Regular].
“The WBA would be a new route and I’d have to get up there in the rankings and do it the right way but it’s something I’m willing to do,” Smith told BM.
“I’m a realistic fella I always have been. I’m very realistic and I have to be for my job outside the ring with Sky. I can’t wax lyrical about kids, talk sense about others and not talk sense about myself.
“It is a type of fresh start. I’ve got nothing at all to lose now apart from the fact that I’ve tried at the top level and fell short. I know that but I know I can win a world title and I’d love to fight someone like Felix Sturm and I’d love to fight Giovanni De Carolis.
“The big fights are out there and there are opportunities to be had. I’ve always been one of them type of people if I can’t do it the best then what’s the point of doing it. But I can still get up there, I believe. The division is wide open and things can happen.”
Smith hopes that he can be the final piece in what would be a unique family jigsaw featuring himself and his three brothers as world champions. Liam, WBO light-middleweight titlist, is already slotted in; Stephen challenges for Jose Pedraza’s IBF super-featherweight title on 16 April while Callum, who headlines this weekend's boxing in Liverpool, is pounding on the WBC’s doors for a world title shot at 168lbs. Should the bells ring out on 2016 with the four siblings as world champions it would be history. It would be….
“The dream,” Paul added.
“Liam’s already done it, I think Stephen will do it and I’m almost certain Callum will do it when he gets his shot. I am the one who has to complete the four of us whereas it was me who won the British title first and I’ll hopefully be the last to win a world title. I am confident of doing it if I get the fights.”