Feature | May 14 2019

Stephen Smith returns after doubts that he would ever box again

Stephen Smith tells Matt Bevan how he almost drifted away from boxing and how hard it was to get back
Stephen Smith on Canelo Alvarez
Stephen-Smith  |  Action Images

THE last time we saw Stephen Smith in action was back in December 2017, when he suffered a horrendous ear injury in Las Vegas, following a head clash with former world champion Francisco Vargas.

The defeat left Smith wondering whether his time in the sport was over. But after a prolonged absence “Swifty” was back in Nottingham on Friday, picking up an expected 60-54 points win over Des Newton, who was also put down in the fifth by a solid body shot.

It’s a win that doesn’t look like much on paper but for Smith, it is one of his most important, as the 33-year-old former two-time world title challenger sets his sights on what could be his final assault at glory.

Smith explained, “It’s my first go after all the time out, so all in all I was pretty happy with the performance. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would box again, as I put weight on and I wasn’t in the gym, so there was a period where I didn’t think I would fight again.

“I never retired but there certainly wasn’t the drive that needed to be there for a while, but I got back in the gym with the rest of the lads, into a routine and I started enjoying myself again. The weight started to come off and I asked Joe [Gallagher] to get me a fight, which wasn’t easy, so we had to fight the lad I did tonight, who was a bit heavy but I’ve got it done, so we can look to progress to bigger and better fights.

“The buzz has been just being a boxer again. Going to the gym, coming back and eating well. I could feel myself getting fitter and stronger again, as opposed to laying in bed, going out to cafe’s and other places like that. It’s really good to be back.”

The major battle for Smith wasn’t the recovery from the injury, it was getting himself mentally ready to step between the ropes again. It wasn’t a standout performance by any means though, as he admits there is plenty of ring rust that needs to be shaken off.

Now the focus for Smith is remaining active, as he looks to secure a date in the near future and get back to the level that saw him on the brink of world title success in a tough super-featherweight division.

“There was a lot of rust tonight and I was making some mistakes, like every time I had him hurt, I was rushing in and I was thinking to myself, what am I doing here. I could here Joe’s voice not just from the corner, but in my head as well, thinking what are you playing at,” he said.

“I’ve had 18 months out, so I suppose it’s only natural but with the experience that I have, I knew I was doing these things whilst I was doing them and there was no need. Every time I landed a shot, he made a noise and I’d jump in, rather than staying relaxed, chipping away and finishing it properly. But that will come when I’ve got another one under my belt and I’m more polished.

Stephen Smith

“Early on after the injury, it was hard and I wasn’t ready to get back in the gym. I always thought I’d take till around June off, then get back in and be ready for the new season, but I wasn’t ready and the ear wasn’t properly ready either. But, I got back in January, but even then I was thinking I was perhaps kidding myself a bit, but I’ve done it and got a win. Yes, it was only a six rounder against a kid I should beat 10 times out of 10, but it means a lot to me.

“It was good to have everyone around me once again. Joe, all my brothers and Callum Johnson as we’re all very close. It meant a lot to be the one lacing the gloves up and everyone wishing me well, as I can’t emphasise enough how many times I thought I wouldn’t get here again. Wherever one of the others go, we all go and tonight was no different, so I’m ready for the next one, wherever that may be.”

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