By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
LIAM SMITH did not even want to be a world champion when he stepped into a boxing gym for the first time.
But the football-mad Scouser admits boxing saved him from wasting his life smoking weed and boozing.
The Liverpool fighter takes on American John Thompson tonight in Manchester for the vacant WBO light-middleweight title.
The Reds fan was the last out of the Smith boxing family to take up the sport when he walked into Liverpool's famous Rotunda gym, but he was more interested in a career as a footballer.
Smith, 27, can now be the first out of Paul, Stephen and Callum to claim world honours if he beats Thompson tonight at Manchester Arena.
He said: "In a nutshell I never thought I would fight for a world title. I never wanted to box when I started.
"But I stuck at it and took to it quite quick. I boxed after three months but I still wanted to be a footballer and kept playing.
"I then stopped the football for a while, then I started playing again and I still play now.
"I now know that football dream is gone and as soon as I dedicated myself to being a boxer then I thought about winning a world title.
"But when I started boxing, I was the latest of the brothers, I never thought about winning a world title."
Smith will line up for his Sunday League side tomorrow even if he claims the WBO title tonight - unless he picks up an injury.
He is a big Liverpool fan and his love for the sport is clear, but he admits without boxing his life would be a lot different.
He said: "If I didn't stay boxing I'd have gone and done other stuff like smoke weed and other bad stuff.
"That is not just another 'oh boxing has saved me' story, I'm not saying that.
"But if I didn't stay at boxing I would be out smoking weed and doing whatever. I'd be out every weekend on the ale.
"I'm not saying I don't go out, I do when I'm allowed but boxing has kept me on the straight and narrow."