By Nick Halling
Former British super featherweight champion Stephen Smith hopes to take a step closer to fighting for the world title when he faces WBC Silver champion Fernando Saucedo in March. The Argentinian’s Silver belt is on the line, but Smith’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is also hoping to make it a final eliminator, with the winner going on to challenge Japanese champion Takashi Miura.
Earlier this month, Smith went to the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles where he sparred with world ranked Californian Alejandro Perez in preparation for Saucedo. “His style was perfect for me,” said Smith. “Like Saucedo, it’s all about the left hand with him. He’ll lead with the left hook, and he’ll show you plenty of variety with the left. The right hand is pretty straight, but it’s the left you have to worry about.”
Smith is under no illusions about the size of the task facing him, and will certainly not be going for the knockout against the gritty Argentinian, who has never been stopped.
“Obviously he’s got a solid chin, and there’s a bit of the Mayweather defence about him,” observed Smith, who has been watching plenty of his opponent’s previous contests. “He’s cute that way. He’s tough: Acelino Freitas couldn’t stop him, and he was knocking everybody out when they met. This is the kind of fight where if I get impatient, it’ll be a nightmare for me, because he’s not easy to hit. I’m just going to have to take my time, win this round, then the next one, and try to pile up the points.”
Delighted not to be travelling to Buenos Aires, Smith nevertheless feels that home advantage will not be a major factor in this fight. “If it was the kind of affair where you’re going to the well, then yes, home advantage would be vital,” he said. “But it isn’t going to be like that. It will be more about my skills, about me keeping my head, and using my boxing skills. But yeah, I’m glad I’m not going to Argentina!”
One of four brothers currently riding a wave, Stephen could be the first of the siblings to get a shot at a world title. But he might not be the last. Elder brother Paul, current British super middleweight boss, is hoping to chart a passage through a world opportunity in 2014, while reigning light middleweight king Liam certainly possesses the skills to be operating at a higher level.
The youngest of the quartet, Callum, has been working his way through opponents with the ruthless efficiency of a combine harvester threshing a field of corn, and is widely recognised as one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing. It is not beyond credibility to suggest that all four will get their shot over the next two or three years.
However it is the quietly-spoken Stephen who suddenly finds himself in pole position in the race for global recognition. Victory over Saucedo, and the road to Japan will be wide open.
Since turning pro two years ago, cruiserweight Wadi Camacho has enjoyed a colourful , high-profile career, and not always for the right reasons. The East Londoner has talent and can certainly punch, but defeats at the hands of China Clarke and Tony Conquest have exposed his limitations and raised questions about his commitment to the game.
He ran out of gas badly against Clarke and coasted against Conquest, seemingly under the mistaken impression that scoring knockdowns in each of the first two rounds would be good enough in a 10 rounder. It wasn’t: Conquest outworked him over the remaining eight rounds to take a clear decision.
Earlier this month, Camacho was making headlines again for all the wrong reasons at a press conference to promote his fight with Stephen Simmons for the WBC International Silver title on March 1st. Mock-up photos of Simmons’ fiancée appeared on Camacho’s twitter feed, leading to a heated verbal response from the Scot, who threatened to put Camacho in a coma.
So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Camacho is now being looked after by Peter Sims, a trainer not noted for his tolerance towards wayward souls.
“He came to me and asked if I’d train him,” said Sims. “I had to sit him down and read him the riot act first. We had a long chat about his lifestyle. I told him I wasn’t going to tolerate any playboy stuff. If he’s in the clubs, then he’s out. Then it all kicked off at that press conference, and I thought, maybe I’ve made the wrong decision here!”
Camacho insists that the twitter stuff was put out there by friends, and has disowned it. Sims has taken it a step further. “I’ve told him to come off twitter, and stop using those social media sites, because we don’t need to be involved in all that. We’re going to quieten him down.”
The Spanish-born cruiser left Brian Lawrence after losing to Clarke, and has now parted company with Don Charles following defeat against Conquest. Both trainers have solid credentials. If he fails again, Camacho will have no-one to blame but himself.
“To be honest, I think he knows this is his last chance,” said Sims. “But he’s really knuckled down since he’s been here. His determination has really impressed me. The first week, he was struggling with things a little bit, but he kept at it. And his attitude has been great – he’s always at the gym 15 minutes early, ready to go. He’s doing everything we’re asking of him, and you cant say any more than that. He’s actually a nice lad when you get to know him, but it’s probably fair to say he needs to grow up a bit.”
How much Camacho has matured will be revealed in Glasgow on March 1st, when he faces a fired-up Simmons in front of a partisan crowd. “It will be a cracking fight,” said Sims, “and there will be a lynch mob mentality up there for sure. But Wadi will feed off that, I think he’ll love it.”
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports