By Terence Dooley
Edinburgh's Kenny Anderson has vacated the British super middleweight title for personal reasons, leaving former champions Paul Smith and Tony Dodson free to contest the Lonsdale belt. Smith versus Dodson has been sent out to purse bids by the BBBoC, setting up a Liverpool derby between two rivals who waged a bloody, pitched battle for Smith's then-title in March 2010.
Anderson won the belt courtesy of a fifth-round TKO over former WBC titlist Robin Reid in October. However, the 30-year-old made the decision to vacate the belt rather than keep Smith, who was in line for a crack at the new champion, waiting around for his shot. Kevin Maree, Anderson's trainer, confirmed the news when speaking to BoxingScene. "Kenny has had to vacate for personal reasons," said Maree.
"Kenny could have kept hold of it, dragged things out with purse bids, but he'd rather see the lads get on with their careers and fight for the vacant title. He'll be back to fight for it when he's ready."
Smith, 32-3 (18), lost in two-rounds when challenging George Groves for the British and Commonwealth 168lb titles in November 2011, he returned with a win over Tommy Tolan in November of last year and is relishing the task ahead.
"It is a shame it is the vacant title and not Anderson, but the title was won by [Tony] Quigley before when it was vacated by [Brian] Magee, who won it when it was vacated by [Carl] Froch, and Anderson won the vacant title as well," said Smith.
"No one knows the reason why he’s vacated apart from the Board and Kenny himself, but that's his business, so I don't mind fighting for the vacant belt. If it was Anderson holding the title then I'd have fought Anderson, but it isn't so it is me against Dodson."
It is Smith-Dodson redux, then — only this time the pre-fight banter won't be as near to the knuckle as it was when they met in 2010. "We've both move on and grown up now," said Smith. "We've both got pally since the fight. I've got a lot of respect for him as a fighter and for his family — he's a good lad. It will be strange, but when the bell goes all the praise goes out the window — we'll be trying to knock each other out.
"I had the six rounder in November to get my eye back in, so I've been active, but I've sparred more rounds since being with [trainer] Joe Gallager and I don't feel rusty. With [former trainer] Billy [Graham], I'd do the sparring in the last two hard weeks before the fight or when I had to help Ricky [Hatton] or [Matthew] Macklin out, with [U.S.A.-based coach] Buddy [McGirt], I'd spar a lot more, but only in the main part of the camp, and that's no disrespect to either trainer.
“With Joe, I get back into the gym and do two, three and five-minute rounds to keep my eye in — it isn't about knocking shite out of each other, there's a lot of technique work. I've sparred every kid in our gym, from Scott Quigg through to Callum Johnson and some cruiserweights who came in. You can learn from quality sparring."
This approach to his craft is certainly working, Smith used to look sallow between fights. Since joining Gallagher, he has been the picture of health and is certainly enjoying life at Gallagher's Gym. "I am buzzing," said the 30-year-old.
"I knew a title fight was coming, so I was chipping at the weight and knew I could adjust things accordingly when a date came. I'm living the life, I'm enjoying things and I'm settled in everything in my life. This fight is great news for me, it is exactly what I want and what I've been waiting for."
Dodson, though, will hope to throw a spanner into the works, "The Warrior" first won the British title in 2003 — an 11th-round TKO win over Allan Foster — and was agonisingly close to winning the vacant belt in March 2009 only to be stopped in the final round by Tony Quigley after an amazing fight.
The 32-year-old has campaigned at light-heavyweight in recent fights — he lost in three-rounds to Ovill McKenzie for the Commonwealth title in February of last year — but the lure of the British 168lb belt is enough to drag the 29-7-1 (14) fighter back down to his old stomping ground.
Dodson weighed 180½lbs when securing a six-round decision win over John Anthony in November after serving a short ban for accidently ingesting a banned substance, Methylhexaneamine, via an over-the-counter supplement, Hemo-Rage. This latest bit of news will be a nice fillip for the popular fighter and should lead to another atmospheric fight night in Liverpool depending on who wins the purse bid and where they decide to stage the fight.
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