By Terence Dooley
British boxing fans no longer face an either/or moment when deciding between watching Liam Smith (25-1-1, 14 KOs) versus Liam Williams (16-1-1, 11 early) in an eliminator for the WBO light-middleweight title or Anthony Joshua’s defence of his IBF World and IBO titles against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrart Pulev after Frank Warren announced that Smith-Williams will now take place on November 11 instead of October 28, the proposed date of the Joshua fight.
Warren confirmed the news at this afternoon’s press conference in Newcastle; the city’s Metro Radio Arena will host the fight. The move means that fans can watch both shows live without having to choose between them.
Smith and Williams met for the interim WBO title in April. Smith, however, failed to make the 154lb limit and the belt was only on the line for Williams, who retired in his corner in round nine due to a cut and badly swollen right eye to hand the advantage over to Smith going into the highly-anticipated return bout. Williams was leading on the cards at the time of the withdrawal.
Liverpool's Smith held aloft the WBO belt between October 2015 and September 2016 after beating John Thompson (W TKO 7) for the vacant title, making two successful defences before a ninth-round KO loss to Saul Alvarez. The 29-year-old will hope to beat Williams again to get himself back into world title contention.
A former British Champion, Williams boxed well in the early going last time out and was heavily criticised by Smith for withdrawing from the fight to avoid further eye damage, prompting an online war of words between the two. The 25-year-old from Wales will be looking for revenge, rather than a repeat, in the return.
The winner of this one can expect to contest the vacant WBO belt at some point while the loser will still have options domestically and beyond with the likes of Joe Pigford and Ted Cheeseman, both undefeated, leading the chasing pack here in the U.K.
“This has all of the ingredients of a great fight,” stated Warren when speaking to the assembled press. “I believe it will be even better than their first meeting. The winner of this fight becomes the WBO mandatory challenger, wouldn't it be great to bring Miguel Cotto to the U.K.?”
The bad blood the two fighters have displayed online was also spilt in person when they outlined how the rematch will go. “It was a very good fight,” said Williams.
“I felt like I started very well. I was outboxing Liam. He came on strong at the end. I took a nasty cut to the eye, it isn't a tickling contest and these things happen. I'm glad we get to do it again.”
“What I did to try and make during fight week killed me, I was flat, slow and sluggish,” explained Smith. “I have it in me to change fights. You go in the ring, you get wet. You spewed it. That’s why [trainer] Gary Lockett pulled you out.”
“If I lose in a fair manner I will hold my hands up and take a defeat like a man, you have only one style,” argued Williams, which prompted a swift response from Smith.
“It was enough to bully you,” he said.
“You didn't bully me at all,” countered Williams.
As things wound down, Smith provided the final word by declaring: “I will do the weight right this time, you'll have no excuses from me.”
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