By Terence Dooley
Paul Smith (167¾lb) made his return to the ring on the undercard of Frank Warren’s O2 Arena ‘This Is It’ bill on Saturday night with a single stanza KO win over Hungary’s Jozef Matolcsi (162½lb). ‘Smigga’ had been out of action since losing his British super-middleweight belt to James DeGale in December, he relocated to Joe Gallagher’s gym after the ninth round stoppage loss and looked a rejuvenated fighter during the brief KO win over ‘Shatter Machine’.
Smith, though, had to take a solid left hook to the chin early after both men had exchanged sharp jabs. ‘Real Gone Kid’ was pushed back by the shot. Matolcsi sought to capitalize on the opening only to walk onto a left hook. A right hand put the visitor down heavily during their second exchange, prompting referee Richie Davies to signal the end at 0:58 of the session.
Smith is now 30-2 (16); Jozef falls to 29-16- (20).
“I am happy with what I’m doing in the gym,” said Smith when speaking to www.frankwarren.tv. “As the song says, the only way is up – I’m going to improve even more. Now is the time to fine-tune my skills with Joe because there are still a few things to work on. I think I’ve got the experience and the performances are going to get even better.”
Jozef’s big left hook bomb ignited a bonfire under Smith, forcing the Liverpudlian to fight fire with fire. “Joe was drilling me on keeping my right hand up all the time in the gym but I got caught with the shot,” admitted the 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medalist.
“It wasn’t the type of shot that hurts you but it sent me back on my heels a bit and pushed me back. I caught him with one right after because I knew he was vulnerable to the same shot. It has taught me that I can go in and go forward, not try to be a counter puncher – I’m a good come forward aggressive fighter.”
Although a former domestic titlist at the higher poundage, Smith believes that he has to earn his stripes again down at 160lb if he is to force his way into a showdown with EBU boss Darren Barker.
“I look like I had a tough paper round but believe me I’m only 28,” he joked, pointing out that he still has a few years left in the tank. “I want another one in July and then hopefully a title fight in September.
“I’d love to fight Martin Murray or Darren Barker but Darren’s got bigger fish to fry at the moment, he’s European champion. It would be great if Barker wanted to defend it against me but realistically I can’t just drop down in weight and get that shot – I have to earn it.”
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