THE WBA super-middleweight title fight between Callum Smith and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, announced last week for June 1 at Madison Square Garden, New York, might not get the juices flowing or mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly means a lot to Smith, the champion.
After all, should Smith impress on his New York debut, there is a very real chance of him then fighting Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez, arguably the biggest name in the sport.
That’s the incentive for the Liverpudlian ahead of what should be a routine first defence of his title.
“I can’t say I want to fight Canelo and then stink the place out,” the 29-year-old told BBC Sport. “My name coming out of Canelo’s mouth, I must be doing something right.
“There is pressure for people to watch and say I may be the man to beat Canelo. If I don’t do it on the weekend, those hopes are smashed to bits.”
Thirty-five-year-old N’Dam N’Jikam, a French-Cameroonian, beat another Brit, Martin Murray, last time out and has won 37 of his 40 pro fights. He is, however, a natural middleweight and boasts no wins of note in the 12-stone division.
His last defeat was a seventh-round stoppage loss to Japan’s Ryota Murata in 2017, again at middleweight, while in defeats to Peter Quillin and David Lemieux he found himself on the canvas a combined 10 times.
“This is very special,” Smith added, speaking more of the occasion than the fight itself. “It’s special to defend a world title for a first time. But Madison Square Garden ticks a lot of boxes. It’s the history of it going way back, an iconic venue.
“On the night it’s just a ring, you get in there and switch off but it’s always nice to look back on these things.
“Before, Groves’ people wrote me off, saying it was a step too far. That was a lot of pressure for myself. Now it’s turned around and people expect of me.
“It’s something I have got used to. There has been hype around me always and I feel in some ways the Groves thing brought out the best of me and this will be no different.”
As fight week gathers pace, you will see plenty of Anthony Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion set to fight Andy Ruiz Jnr on Saturday (June 1) in New York, and you might notice him sporting some facial blemishes, the likes of which are typically found on a boxer’s face post-fight rather than before it.
Asked about the bruising on his face, Joshua told Seconds Out: “Oh no, that was just physio stuff really.
“No-one really does that to me in sparring and stuff like that. So that was just more physio stuff. Like rehabilitation, recovery. But that’s it.”
For this fight, his US debut, Joshua has split training between Sheffield, his regular base in the UK, and Miami and New York. Locations aside, he has also adopted a different approach to camp as a whole.
“I’ve had 10 years of that feeling of being burnt out by the time I get to the ring,” AJ told BBC Sport.
“Even in the Povetkin fight I was so ill and tired. This camp, I knew I couldn’t afford that again as it shortens the career. So it’s learning, but it’s taken time. We are finally pulling it together.
“It’s time to rebuild that name again. I feel like an underdog and like I want to prove myself.”