By Jake Donovan
The last time Callum Smith stepped foot in the ring, he left with his first major title and his best win to date.
His next fight doesn’t boast anywhere near the significance, but could be the most important next step of his rising career.
The unbeaten super middleweight titlist from Liverpool, England returns for the first time since winning the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament last September. With a finals victory over countryman George Groves came a 168-pound title which he will defend on Saturday, facing former middleweight titlist Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam.
The title serves as the chief support to the United States debut of unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua whom faces Andy Ruiz atop a loaded DAZN-streamed bill at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. A win on Saturday could put him in line for a major showdown with World middleweight champ and global superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez—which the timing of his placement on this show so very crucial.
“Callum Smith is a name that has come up in several DAZN meetings,” Eddie Hearn, Smith’s promoter told BoxingScene.com’s Rahim Davies during a recent video interview in New York City. “He’s come up in several Golden Boy/DAZN/Matchroom meetings. In fact, Callum Smith was the first name they mentioned after the Canelo-Jacobs fight.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before Canelo moves up to ’68. When he does it’s only a matter of time before he wants to fight the best in the world and that’s Callum Smith.”
Wedged in between Smith’s WBSS tournament run and Saturday’s fight was the birth of his daughter this past January. His desire to fully experience the joys of being a new father largely contributed to the eight months inactive period, although the Brit is now ready to get back into the swing of things, beginning with his first title defense.
“Right now, he’s got the fight with Hassan N’Dam,” notes Hearn. “We want to keep him active. He had the birth of his daughter and wanted some time off. That’s the aim. Canelo at 168 is a massive fight. You’ve seen Callum, he’s a huge 168 pounder. It’s only a matter of time before he moves up to (light heavyweight).”
Reading the tea leaves, it would appear that Alvarez—who is coming off of a May 4 win over Daniel Jacobs to further unify the middleweight titles—will find his next opponent at MSG, only one week later when old rival Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin faces unbeaten but unheralded Steve Rolls in the former middleweight titlist’s own DAZN debut.
With a win, it is expected that Golovkin will head to a third fight with Alvarez, whom dethroned the long-reigning titlist in a majority decision last September, exactly 52 weeks after the two fought to a highly disputed 12-round draw.
Smith and his team are well aware of that development and are willing to play the long game. Despite the urgency to land a superfight before moving up in weight, the short wait gives the Liverpudlian time to get reacquainted with the ring—and his handlers time to build for what they envision as a massive event back home.
“We’d love to get the Canelo fight and we’d love to do it in Anfield,” Hearn suggests in staging the fight at the famed football venue in London which can seat more than 60,000 for a boxing event. “I’m not sure if Canelo knows where Anfield is, but Canelo and Callum Smith in Anfield is a moment that Liverpool will never forget.
“But (Smith) is very massively going for Canelo and all of us being in the same house (DAZN) makes it very likely for that fight to happen.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox