Former WBO light middleweight world champion Liam Smith (29-2-1, 16 KOs) has his eye on a fight with Jessie Vargas should a fight with Kell Brook not materialise this year.
Boxing in 2020 is currently at a standstill because of the deadly Covid-19 worldwide pandemic, and Smith says that should boxing resume in the summer then a fight with Brook has to happen by the end of the year or it never will.
Smith, 31, isn’t interested in chasing a fight against the former IBF welterweight champion or basing the remainder of his career in pursuit of the 33-year-old. This frustration has now turned Smith’s attention to Jessie Vargas. A fight between the two had been mooted by their promoter Eddie Hearn to take place on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz rematch in Saudi Arabia last year.
“I’ve had a little thought to myself over this period of time and I’m going to see if Eddie fancies doing the Jessie Vargas fight again. He wanted that before Vargas got the Mikey Garcia fight so I might just see if he wants to make that fight in the meantime. It’s still a decent fight,” he told Boxing Scene on Monday.
Smith had thought a fight between himself and Brook, who is also promoted by Hearn, was all but done after being asked by Sky Sports to be ringside for Brook’s last outing in February against Mark De Luca. Multiple interviews with the media about the possibility of the fight as well as it being mentioned in the immediate aftermath of Brook’s win had lifted Smith’s hopes and expectations. Things have since gone quiet with the Yorkshireman being discussed as a potential challenger for Terence Crawford’s WBO welterweight title at some point in the future.
“I don’t think Brook wants the fight. I think he’d rather fight a bigger name like Crawford. Someone who if he loses to no-one could give him stick for it,” said Smith.
“I know first hand Sky wants that fight and Sky is pushing for that fight and it should be down to Eddie to force Kell’s hand. If he [Brook] doesn’t get Crawford then Eddie should force his hand and say ‘Look Kell, I’ll give you x amount to fight Smith and if you don’t you’ll be getting less to fight someone like De Luca again’”.
“I know if you announced Smith-Brook tomorrow it would be a massive fight in Britain. The public would be buzzing with it but at the same time I don’t give a s--t. I’m not getting known for chasing Brook the way he has for chasing [Amir] Khan. He’s not that good, not that relevant to me.”
The immediate future for Smith is a life as a new father after the recent birth of his daughter. Spending time with his new baby is one bonus, he says, for what is a frustrating time for the Liverpudlian. His activity levels have dwindled because of the national lockdown, meaning that there is no Sunday league football or golf or snooker to pass the time. For the time being it’s a case of road work and shadow boxing while he waits for some boxing equipment to get him back up and punching properly.
“I need to start punching something. My strength and conditioning coach has sent me a lot of body weight stuff to do with what I’ve got around me. So I’ll maybe have another week of what I’ve been doing, a couple of runs and shadow and then I’m going to get on it as if I’ve got a fight coming up. Eating right, dieting and stuff like that.”
Despite being the wrong side of 30 and sporting the striking grey hair which, along with his boxing, he has become known for, Smith like all world title contenders believes that he has a world title win within him. The former champion sits at number two in the WBO rankings, one spot behind Brian Castano who as mandatory will face current belt holder Patrick Teixeira before anyone else once boxing returns. Smith is aware of the situation. A mandatory, a voluntary and then he will become mandatory. It could be a while before a world title shot against the Brazilian materialises.
“Eddie has said because of this pandemic fighters could fight decent fighters sooner rather than later.” Something which Smith will be thankful for instead of a ten rounder to get back up to speed.
Having fought against Canelo in Texas and Jaime Munguia in Las Vegas, both unsuccessful but gallant efforts, Smith has also had the great pleasure and experience of fighting in Mexico. With his come forward style a perfect match for Mexican fight fans, Smith found himself in Hermosillo, and in his second fight with Matchroom having signed with them last year, to take on the experienced Mario Lozano who had been the distance in the past with Jermell Charlo and Teixeira. The seventh round win made the trip all the sweeter during a boxing trip that he describes as being up there as one of his best.
“It was unbelievable,” he recalled.
“The arena was a top arena. Twelve thousand people full of Mexicans. The crowd was brilliant. Obviously in the fight they were against me and went mad against every punch but then I hurt Lozano at the end of the sixth and they still went mad when I hurt him. When I stopped him I got a great reception. They were great with me all week. Even from the Canelo fight and the Munguia fight. I was walking into gas stations and getting recognised by women. We went to a petrol station to buy sun cream and these three women behind the counter recognised me right away and I had no Team Smith tracksuit top on, I had no t-shirt on, I had shorts and no top on and they recognised me straight away and they said to Paul (his eldest brother) can we get a photo. They were scared to ask me and I said ‘Of course’. It was a good moment.”
“It’d be ideal if I was a little bit younger,” he says of fighting in the likes of Vegas, Texas and Mexico in the last four years. “It is what it is. I do feel a young 31, I know I don’t look it because I’ve got grey hair!”
“A few years back I kinda said I’m going to stay till I’m 33 but even with this pandemic I do feel I’ve got a little bit left, and when I look around and look at the Kell Brook’s, the Texiera’s, Rosario’s, I do definitely feel I can become a world champion again.”