By Terence Dooley
Liverpool's Paul Smith has been out of action since breaking a knuckle on his right hand during his second-round stoppage defeat to George Groves when challenging for the Londoner’s British and Commonwealth super middleweight titles on November 5. The Liverpudlian caught Groves with a cracking right in the first, but damaged his fist and was sent to the canvas by a right hook from Groves early in the second round. Unable to recover from the first knock down, Smith was sent to the canvas again and rose on unsteady legs, he disputed referee Victor Loughlin's decision to stop the fight at the time yet has since admitted that the Scottish official made the right call.
‘Smigga’ has had an operation on his right hand, the 29-year-old is now back in the gym and working towards an April or May fight date.
“My hand is O.K., I can punch with it again, and I’m just getting back into training to get a bit of weight off,” said Smith when speaking to BoxingScene.com.
“When I first turned pro I enjoyed getting into shape and getting out of shape, I used to let my hair down after a fight, but since joining with [trainer] Joe [Gallagher] I’ve enjoyed getting back in the gym. Even when you get a win, you want to be back in on the Monday to help the other lads out.”
The former British super middleweight titlist has been itching to go back to work and get the defeat to Groves out of his system. However his hand problem prevented him from doing bag work and the side effects of the painkillers left him unable to do any roadwork; they also led to the odd bout of delirium.
He said: “This has done my head in. My hand was wired and everything. I couldn’t even run because of the strong painkillers I was taking. It is easy to put weight on, harder to get it off, but I’ll chip away at it – I am working in the gym and will be sparring soon. I’m telling you, it [the delirium from the medication] was crazy – I had to have my dad stay with me at times when my missus was away. I was falling asleep watching telly with my lad and they couldn’t wake me up, but I needed them [the painkillers] because the pain in my hand was unbearable.”
The injury occurred at the end of the first round of Smith’s meeting with Groves when a right hand to the chin stunned the champion; Smith knew his fist was injured the moment the shot connected. “It was that shot, yeah,” revealed Smith, who is 31-3 (17).
“It was a good shot, but my hand wasn’t closed properly and the bones just snapped. I felt it at the time and thought, ‘F***ing hell, what happened there and why hasn’t he gone?’ I could hardly move my fingers.”
The champion paid Smith back in kind during the second round; his right hook detonated on his opponent's chin and effectively signalled the end of the contest despite the challenger gamely rising to his feet. “I’ve landed them types of shots myself, but when I’ve landed I’ve meant to land it and I thought I dipped into his one,” Smith's take on the decisive punch.
“I’ve always said there’s no such thing as a lucky shot, so I won’t be a hypocrite, but I thought that it was meant to come through to my body and I ducked into the shot. There was some fortune there. I was gone, but I still got up and tried to fight back instead of grabbing on or going on my bike.
“I’m not a big hard case or anything, but I always want to carry on and will try to con the ref into thinking I’m OK. My legs were jelly, I didn’t see the shot coming – I’ve been hit with harder punches, but not with that speed and surprise. I always want to go out on my shield. You get fighters who want the easy way out. They tell the doctor or ref that they’re not O.K. to carry on. I’d never do that and can’t stand it when people do.
“I genuinely thought I could have won it. I thought I took the first round, it was going to plan, but I got caught and have to draw a line under it. It wasn't a career ending fight or a beating. It was one shot and a jab could have put me over the second time because I hadn't recovered from the first one. Credit to Groves, he deserved it on the night.”
Smith is eyeing a move to middleweight. However the news that Groves will challenge WBO title holder Robert Stieglitz has alerted the top domestic contenders to the possibility of a crack at Groves's vacant British belt, with Smith, Robin Reid and Kenny Anderson, who had hoped to fight Groves for the title last Friday night only for George's back injury to nix the contest, all in the mix. Smith confirmed that he would consider staying at 168 if the BBBoC offer him a title shot when Groves leaves the belt behind to contest world honours.
“I have just got to get in shape, see what is happening at middleweight or where I can get a title,” said Smith. “I would never turn a title fight down. I got offered a fight against George Groves and said yes. I was offered to fight DeGale and took it. I have never taken the easy route, I didn't try to get easy defences just to keep the title and move on. If someone offers me a fight then I won't turn it down.”
Smith had expected Groves to beat Anderson for a second time. Although the tough contender is a member of the 'Who needs him club', Smith would sign on for a showdown with the 29-year-old Edinburgh boxer if the British belt was on the line as he believes that Anderson has flaws. A fight between the two would certainly sell; they do not mince their words and will both bare their hearts and put their souls on the line for the Lonsdale belt.
Indeed, Anderson recently told me that Smith will always struggle at 168 and the Scottish boxer feels that he is one of the biggest super middleweights in the game. Smith, though, believes that he has the guile to take ‘The Widowmaker’ into deep waters.
“I thought he looked slow and predictable against [Paul] Morby [during Anderson’s third-round win over the journeyman on October 8],” said Smith. “I think he isn't on that Groves level yet – you've got to be able to mix it up against Groves and Kenny's too predictable.”
Click on this link for Kenny Anderson’s views on Smith’s defeat to Groves: http://www.boxing-monthly.co.uk/content/1112/one.htm
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