Liam Smith has seen two of his older brothers retire in the past two years, but he does not believe he is about to join them. The 33-year-old former WBO super-welterweight champion faces Anthony Fowler in a Merseyside derby on Saturday at the M&S Bank Arena (formerly the Echo Arena), Liverpool, but he is still looking upwards in his career.
One of four famous boxing brothers, Paul and Stephen are now retired, while the youngest, Callum, the former WBA super-middleweight champion, has just moved up in weight.
In Smith’s only fight since 2019, he lost a unanimous decision to Magomed Kurbanov in Russia in May, and while many felt he was unlucky, but he says he is not about to become a journeyman and is interested in a WBO final eliminator against Tim Tszyu.
“I beat Anthony Fowler, I’m back on that track, I’m back in with the names,” Smith said. “Let’s have it right, I should have beaten Kurbanov and I should be fighting Tim Tszyu now as a mandatory challenger, but it is what it is.”
“Obviously this is a big drop in caliber wise fighting Fowler, so it does seem a long way away. I’ll drop down, beat Fowler, and then be back up where I belong.”
Smith said that Fowler had never been on his radar but the push for the fight came from promoter Eddie Hearn. Interestingly, Smith does not see himself among Hearn’s favorites. While all four brothers ended up boxing for Hearn, Liam was the last to sign, having won and lost his world title when promoted by Frank Warren.
“Eddie wanted this fight, he knew it would sell well in Liverpool. That’s fine by me, he got his wish.
“It would be very, very, very difficult for me if I lost this fight. He’s trying to finish my career. If I lose to Fowler, I’ve got no intentions of going after a world title again. But there’s not one per cent of me that thinks I could lose this.
“I’ve said from day one, if I turn up at 100 percent with my A game, I deal with Anthony Fowler.
“Anthony Fowler is a 30-years-old fighter, who’s had 16 fights and never set the world alight.”
The outside view often portrays Liverpudlians as one happy boxing community, but there seems little love lost between Smith and Fowler. Smith was annoyed when Fowler offered to shake his hand after a face-off at the press conference to announce the fight, believing it was a deliberate act to make him look the bad guy for refusing.
“It’s a local derby,” Smith said. “Are Liverpool-Everton matches friendly? It’s a fight.
“I haven’t got his number in my phone, so I won’t be phoning him and go for a coffee. From the outside looking in, I’ve probably got nothing to gain apart from bragging rights.
“I’ve still got a decent ranking, I’m still No 5. Win this and it may push me up a bit more. I’ve done a two-fight deal with Eddie and hopefully he can pull some strings.”
The Tszyu fight in Australia was on the table for Smith, but with restrictions around travel to Australia, which are so strict that the Ashes cricket tour this winter is even in doubt, meant he didn’t take it.
With WBO champion now due to be facing Tszyu, a fight against the winner is one Smith definitely wants.
“If I beat Fowler, Tim Tszyu doesn’t look at this and think ‘he’s beaten Fowler’,” Smith said. “But the Tim Tszyu offer didn’t work and I would have had to be in Australia for five weeks, quarantine for two of those, and the offer only came seven weeks out, it just wouldn’t have worked.
“Castano, I was close to. I was No 2 before I lost to Kurbanov. The winner of Castano and Tszyu, I’d love that fight.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.