WBO world super-welterweight champion Liam Smith hopes to fight Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto on June 18.
Cotto is pencilled in to return on that date at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in what will be his first fight since relinquishing his WBC world middleweight title to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in November.
Smith expressed his desire to face the 35-year-old on social media yesterday and has since told Boxing News he is confident that he is in the running.
“He’s announced the date but he’s still considering his opponent. A few names have been mentioned, myself, Ruslan Provodnikov, [Juan Manuel] Marquez. I think those are the three favourites,” he told us.
“I know I’m the champion but we know how the boxing game works, it’s up to Cotto. Everyone mentioned, besides myself, don’t have a title. I think Roc Nation [Sports, Cotto’s promoter] are happy with me as an opponent”
Roc Nation are currently being sued by Provodnikov’s promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, over a dispute of Demetrius Andrade’s contract, making a fight with Ruslan unlikely.
Another option reportedly being considered for Cotto is Argentine Diego Chaves – a hard sell.
Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach, told us he wants his man to face Mexican legend Marquez, who looks set to end a two-year hiatus in the coming months.
Marquez is obviously interested in the Cotto fight, but plans to have a warm-up bout before engaging Cotto later in the year.
“I don’t know who Cotto wants to fight but I’m hearing Freddie Roach wants an easier opponent for him, I don’t think Roach wants him to fight me,” Smith claimed.
“Then he wants Marquez in September or October.
“Marquez has said it would be September if he fights Cotto as he’s fighting in Mexico first. But Roc Nation have apparently said Cotto can’t have an easy fight because of the money he’s on – but I don’t know, it’s all up in the air at the moment.”
The criminally underrated Smith won the vacant WBO strap in October when he flattened American John Thompson inside seven rounds before successfully defending it against Jimmy Kelly two months later (also a seventh round stoppage).
He is acutely aware he carries little name recognition in America but remains sure that – should he get the call up – he has what it takes to best the Puerto Rican warlord.
“It’s 50-50 whether it’s me. I’ve not got my heart set it on it, I’d love it, but I’m working towards a date around that time anyway,” he said.
“From his point of view, can he get up for it again? Can he get the hunger back, especially against someone like me who’s not a massive name in America? He looked on his way out a couple of years back, then he joined Roach and got some good wins again. Now he’s lost again – I know it was to Canelo, but it’s another loss for him, he’s got no title. Can he go to that place again?
“I’m young, hungry and fresh, I’ve not really had any wars. I’ve got a lot in my locker. He’s had a lot of wars, he’s 35. Is he back on his way out now? I know size-wise I’m massive compared to him, I’m not a small light-middleweight. I’d be massively confident of beating Miguel Cotto.”
Smith, who is promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions, is now keen to secure big fights for himself at 154lbs, having despatched Kelly with ease in his first defence. Prior to that bout, Smith had described it as just an opportunity to ‘earn some Christmas money.’
While he had no personal issue with Kelly, the 27-year-old wants higher-profile fights.
“Austin Trout, that’s a fight I’d like. I just want the big fights now,” he mused.
“I was a bit disrespectful towards the Jimmy Kelly fight and that was nothing to do with him it was just me wanting the big fights, the big money fights. I’m world champion now, I want to make as much money as possible.
“There are the two Charlo brothers [Jermall and Jermell] as well, unification fights there. I didn’t become world champion to fight Jimmy Kelly.
“I want to travel, I know it sounds silly, I’d just love to defend my title or fight for another title in America.”
Unbeaten Demetrius Andrade, who was stripped of the WBO belt for inactivity, would also be a natural option, though he looks set to participate in a tournament to contest for the WBC bauble vacated by Floyd Mayweather.
Smith was ringside in Manchester at the weekend [February 27] to witness gymmate and friend Scott Quigg drop a split decision to rival Carl Frampton, losing his WBA world super-bantamweight title in the process.
While Liam, along with the rest of trainer Joe Gallagher’s stable, is understandably upset for Quigg, he insists the team will use the loss as motivation.
“Everyone was a bit down in the dumps Sunday and Monday but we win together, we lose together,” he said.
“We’re not sitting around dwelling on it, we’ve lost one fight. We’ve been on a high for so long, this loss will only give us a kick up the a***. I don’t want to be in that position, in tears after losing my title. It gives us a little bit more motivation to not be in that position again, we were all gutted.”