This Saturday night, Callum Smith will make a mandatory defense of the WBA super middleweight title against John Ryder in Liverpool.
In 2020, there is a possibility that Smith will move up to the light heavyweight division.
A future at 175lbs brings into contention names such Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol and in time perhaps an all-British super fight against Eddie Hearn’s rising star Joshua Buatsi. Then there’s Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican recently extinguished the life of Sergey Kovalev’s time at the very top of the Light Heavyweight pile and took his WBO title at the same with an eleventh round knockout earlier this month to become a four-weight world champion.
As was the case with Floyd Mayweather Jr cherry picking days everyone around Canelo’s division, or one up or one down, is waiting on a call to be picked as the opponent and the chance to earn the kind of money that may only come around once in their career. Smith’s own career does not depend on a fight against Canelo but freely admits he’d be on the next plane over to America if one was offered to him. That would apply to anyone from Middleweight to Light Heavyweight right now.
“I rate Canelo,” Smith said. “I think he’s a top, top fighter. People criticise him over who he fights and what stage of their career he fights them at and they have got a point. I think he’d have got more credit if he went up to 175 and fought one of the other two champions who are younger and kind of in their prime. He’s done it the smart way. I think with the Golovkin fight he held it off as long as he could and let Golovkin age a bit, put a bit more miles on the clock before he accepted that fight. They’re a smart team and he’s making silly money while they’re doing it. I would love him to fight someone younger, fresher… I’d love him to fight myself! I fall into that category but he’s the face of boxing at the moment and he kind of does what he wants and fights who he wants.
“As good as Kovalev is he’s on the slide,” Smith said having watched the Russian fall at the hands of the Mexican superstar. “It was a smart move and one that’s paid off. It was a bit of a strange fight, a lot of touching gloves, a lot of respect between them. I thought Kovalev boxed well but didn’t punch with intent and try and show Canelo he was the bigger man. It was a bit of a box and move performance.
"I think the plan was, or what everyone thought, that after six rounds Canelo will go through the gears and start putting it on him. Canelo looked tired to be honest. Maybe it was the extra weight he was carrying. It wasn’t the best Canelo performance but on paper he’s gone and knocked out a Light Heavyweight world champion out and he’s practically a middleweight so that deserves a lot of credit and props to him.
“It’ll be interesting to see if Canelo calls for unification fights at 175 or whether he goes back down to 160 or 168; the latter I think. I don’t think he’ll stay up there. He’s not a genuine 175 fighter even though he’s just won a world title. I think he’s a better fighter down at the lower weights.”
For now, all of Smith’s attention is centred on John Ryder and it would be dangerous to do otherwise given how well “The Gorilla” has been performing of late. Saunders, Benavidez, Plant, Canelo all vanish into thin air should he come unstuck on Saturday night. Speaking to Smith, you fully believe that complacency comes nowhere near close to entering his frame of mind and regardless of who he faces, the fear of having to start over again drives him and arguably makes him more dangerous than ever.