August 31, 2016
August 31, 2016
Liam Smith

Action Images

Feedspot followFeedly follow

You were supposed to spar Canelo a few years ago.

I was meant to spar him and then I had a hand injury. I was gutted at the time, I was still coming through and it would have been a great experience for me but now it’s a different time, and I’m at a different stage in my career than I was back then.

You must have followed his career, and Canelo is a very good fighter, but he’s not an unbeatable fighter is he?

I have followed him. I like his style and you only have to look at my style to know that. I’ve watched him through the years. He is a very, very good fighter and he’s moulded into the kind of fighter that only works 30-45 seconds of the round. Miguel Cotto became that kind of fighter. Once you get to that level, even though you know how good they are, they only fight in bursts. He’ll throw a lovely combination, then he’ll walk, he’ll admire it. That’s how Floyd Mayweather beat him – and I’m not comparing myself to Mayweather – by making him work for three minutes. He’d make him cut the ring off, make him do more than just one or two bursts a round. I’m gonna try and make him fight at a pace that he’s uncomfortable at, I know he doesn’t like working at a high pace so it’s up to me and [trainer] Joe [Gallagher] to come up with a plan to make him fight in a way he won’t like.

How excited is Joe?

[Laughs] Yeah, he is. We’ll be up-and-down, we’ll have our arguments along the way, but we’ll have a great training camp. We’ll have arguments and great days, but that’s nothing new and I wouldn’t change that. That’s the way we’ve always worked. I know he’ll be just as excited as me to get his teeth stuck into it, and go against one of the best training regimes in the world.

What did you make of Canelo’s performance against Amir Khan, who you sparred in the build-up?

A lot of people knew that Amir would start well. And it went the way most people expected. It’s funny, you tell the average person on the street that you’re going to fight Canelo, all they’ve seen is him knocking out Khan, and they’re like ‘Woah, really? You’re going to fight him?’ It was a bad knockout, but that fight has put no dent in my confidence at all. It was always a case of if Amir could last the distance, but if he couldn’t, that was always going to happen. But he was small, he was very small, and I knew when I got in with him [to spar ahead of Canelo showdown] that I was a lot bigger than him. It was always going to be an uphill task for him.

Does it worry you that most observers had Khan winning at the time of being knocked out, yet the judges saw a different fight?

Not so much because Amir was on the back foot, trying to outbox him. But I’m not going to go in there and do that. If I’m winning the rounds, I’m winning the fight, I’m bossing the fight, and I’m confident the judges will see it that way. If they don’t, then it’s out of our hands, but if it goes to points, I’m confident that I’ll get the decision.

Does the fact you worked so closely with Khan mean you have already done a lot of homework on Canelo?

I couldn’t wait to see that fight, and the outcome of that fight did not deter me in any way. Watching what Amir was doing early on, and how easy he was making it look, has given me massive confidence. I sparred Amir and we had very, very good spars. The way he went in and handled him showed me there’s no way I won’t be able to go in and handle him. I’m going there to win, believe me.

How exciting is the prospect of the event, of being out there during fight week, of the boxing world being focused on this fight?

Even talking to you now my stomach is going, the excitement is coming right through my body. I’ve been around big fights. [My brother] Paul against [Arthur] Abraham and Andre Ward. And I was around a big camp, helping Amir get ready for Canelo. HBO 24/7 were in the gym, doing interviews. Then when Amir left for America, Anthony Crolla was fighting [Ismael Barroso] and my brother Paul were fighting. But when I got home on social media I saw the grand arrivals, and I thought it was unbelievable and now I’m going to through the same thing. I can’t wait, and I’ll suck every bit of it up.

All of your brothers are signed with Matchroom, yet you’re with Queensberry. Has that ever been difficult when they’ve all been preparing to fight on the same card? Were you ever tempted to switch?

It’s not that simple. I’m under contract to Frank Warren, and I wasn’t going to walk away from that. I trust him to carry on what he started and he’s doing that. I always believed Frank would deliver, and he did do. He delivered with the world title, and there was a bit of stick for the defences, but we always said a big fight was in the pipeline and it was. We tried to get [Kell] Brook but we’ve come out with a bigger fight than that.

How have your brothers reacted to this fight?

They’re over the moon. I told them I’d got the Canelo fight and they were a bit like everyone else, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’. I was saying it was close, but I couldn’t announce it yet, I just need to sign this and HBO need to agree that. There were a few ifs and buts, and then the minute it was announced they were buzzing! You know how close we are, and it’s like they’ve got a big fight too.

There’s talk of Billy Joe Saunders fighting the winner. Is the middleweight division somewhere you’d be happy going to, among the likes of Billy Joe and Gennady Golovkin?

I’ve got no thoughts of going there yet. But if I beat Canelo Alvarez, then yes, I will fight Billy Joe next. We’ve both got the same management team, it’s been spoke about before, and if that comes up, then yes, I will fight Billy Joe. But I’m not going to fight someone like Golovkin unless it’s stupid money because I’m not a fully-fledged middleweight yet, but I would be confident in facing certain people and I would go to 160 to face Billy Joe. Even now – if I didn’t fight Canelo and I got offered Billy Joe for December I’d take that fight. But I’ll beat Canelo, then if the Billy Joe fight is on the table, I’d go up to 160, but if not, I’ll do what I can at 154 first and make a name for myself.

You Tweeted recently that you’d had an ‘unbelievable reaction’ to the fight being made. That 75 per cent was great, 15 per cent had never heard of you, and 10 per cent were ‘keyboard warriors’. What do you make of those who have nothing better to do than criticise?

I just put that on to highlight what a good reaction I’ve had to be honest. I couldn’t have asked for better, especially the people who have gone and booked it.

So 75 per cent were great, and the ones who slag me off, well, it goes over my head and I don’t take any notice. They’re people who are just behind a keyboard who are not happy with their own lives, they’re not happy with what they’re doing. But I’m happy with my life and no comment on social media is going to change that. And the other percentage, who don’t know me, it’s not dragging me down, it’s the Americans who don’t know who I am. That’s because I haven’t boxed in America, and I guarantee they’ll take note after this fight, they’ll soon know who I am.

Some fans are frustrated that Canelo is not fighting Gennady Golovkin. Can you empathise?

I understand it. I’m getting the backlash from it, do you know what I mean? I’m getting people comment on pictures of me and my girlfriend that ‘Canelo is a pussy, Canelo is a chicken’. It’s nothing against me and my girlfriend [laughs], it’s just that it’s on my pictures! All I’ve done is been away and put a picture up on Instagram of me and my girlfriend on holiday and I’m getting Mexicans and Americans attacking Canelo. They were expecting Canelo-Golovkin, and the next minute they’ve got Canelo-Liam Smith who they’ve never heard of. I think even if it was someone they’d heard of they’d still be unhappy because it’s not the fight they wanted, it’s not “GGG”. But their loss is my gain and I’ll take full advantage of it.

Canelo’s last four fights have been at a catchweight of 155lbs. Do you think the fact this is for your title, at 154lbs, is an advantage to you?

I’d have taken this fight at 154 or 155. He’s a light-middleweight, he’s not a middleweight like Golovkin. I’ll tell you one thing right now, size will not be a factor in the outcome of this fight. If I lose it will be because I lose to a better fight on the night. People are saying he’s a monster, that he’s big at the weight, but I’m bigger than him, I’m taller than him. No way am I small at the weight. Canelo is short, he’s thick, he’s solid, but size will not play a part. There will be a lot made of the fact he’ll put 20lbs on [after the weigh-in] but if I wanted to I could put 20lbs on. Amir was a blown up 158 or something like that in the ring, but I’ll be 172 or 174. People are talking about me fighting Billy Joe, and if I wasn’t big enough, people wouldn’t be talking about that. I’m confident, and there’s no way I’ll get bullied like he bullies people. I’m taking my title over there and I’m bringing it back home.

This interview was originally published in Boxing News magazine