Liam Smith grew up as one of four boxing brothers but was always known as ‘the tough one’…
The former world champion, who will continue his climb back towards another world title shot later this year, was often out on the streets of Liverpool’s Kirkdale neighbourhood and rarely lost a fight.
Also a famously promising footballer, ‘Beefy’ reflects on an eventful childhood and boxing journey with #MTKInsideAccess…
Hello ‘Beefy.’ Please start by telling us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up…
Smith: “I was brought up in Kirkdale in Liverpool. My brother was even born in that house. We were brought up there for a number of years and then our parents moved to Aintree, where they still live now. Obviously when we were in Kirkdale, we were a stone’s throw away from the Rotunda Amateur Boxing Gym and that was the place we all boxed.”
Were you encouraged to get into boxing from a young age?
“I think we were always a fighting family. Our Dad was mad on boxing and he had three fights as an amateur. He’s always loved it and goes every weekend. If you ask him a question about boxing, he’ll probably know the answer to it!
“Paul started boxing at nine years old and Stephen started at nine too. I was a little bit different and didn’t start until I was 14 because I played football. As a kid, my heart set was being a footballer and I stuck with that. It was my first love and I still play it. I’m just better at boxing than football!”
How did the competition between the four of you spur you on?
“The competition between the four of us was always good and healthy. We’d race home from school to spar in the house. We’d race home to see who’d be first on. Say me and Stephen were sparring; Paul and Callum would be the judges! It would be winner stays on.
“We’re competitive in everything we do and that include boxing in the house. We play lots of sports together. Callum and I play golf and we all play pool and snooker together. The rivalries are good.”
They say you were always out in front when it came to football. How did the transition to boxing take place?
“Yeah I was a good footballer as a kid but I was always a little bit too slow! I’m not the fastest and that let me down in the long haul. I can still play a bit now. I can still get around the pitch in Saturday or Sunday leagues so for a boxer, I’m an OK footballer! Football and boxing were both high up. Football was first for me as a kid.
“I started boxing while I was still playing football and I only started boxing because I was getting harassed about it when I was having my tea every day! Then a few of my mates at school started boxing for the Kirkdale so I thought I’d got to Rotunda and box one or two of them. I took to it quickly after all the sparring I’d done in the house. Three months later, I had my first amateur fights and my mates had already quit boxing by then. I took it from there. At 17, I was winning national titles and boxing for England. Then, the penny dropped that I’m better at that than football.”
What about your reputation as the ‘bad boy’ of the family?
“Growing up, it was always me who was up to no good. My brothers always say it and if you ask my parents, they’d probably give you the same answer. I was always getting into trouble and fighting. I was out on the streets more.
“The four of us are tough in our own right but I’m probably the one who’s had the most street fights. It’s easy to point the finger at me in that sense! In the long run, being brought up like that hasn’t done me too bad.”
Any regrets in life?
“I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve been British champion, Commonwealth champion and world champion so I can’t look back and say I’d have done anything differently.
“When I look back on the build-up to the Canelo fight now, maybe I would have pulled out with the cut I had. As a boxer and a fighter, I saw pound signs in my head and knew it was a life-changing chance so maybe I was naïve. Apart from that, no.”