At some point in April 2017, for the very first time in my life, I am going to Wales. It is a country filled with mystique and beauty and shares a Celtic association with my home country of Scotland. Before they welcome me in their valleys, one of Wales’ brightest prospects shall go into battle. He is up against a former world champion who us no stranger to creating a legacy of his own as he is part of something very special – a brotherhood of 4 men. On the 8th April, in Manchester, Liam Smith, 24-1-1, 13 KO’s, part of that world level Smith brotherhood of Liverpool, shall stand opposite him, barring his way forward to future glory.
Now I have been to Liverpool before – more than once. I even supported the football club as a boy and was once interviewed for a job there. My admiration for the city and the people who live there was cemented by a long association with a fellow addict who hailed from this fine city, sadly no longer with us, who demonstrated such humility and pride when beating his illness.
But Wales has a draw on my heart though Liam Williams, 16-0-1, 11 KO’s, the Welsh dragon has a pedigree that has yet to roar and raise his profile above the domestic and is elusive in its appeal. There are some who are even whispering that his record is none too impressive. They therefore conclude that Liam Smith shall have a perfunctory, nay easy, time of it in the ring against him; I am not so sure.
In fact, Liam Smith is not so sure neither. He is so cautious over this challenge that last weekend he snuck away to Spain to have a warm up 4 rounder against a journeyman. He risked a lot in taking on Romanian Marian Cazacu but managed a decent enough showing and more importantly got the rounds under his belt. Trainer, Joe Gallagher, made the move as he knew that Williams will be sharp as he has been in the ring and fought 23 competitive rounds last year; Smith had only had 11. In short, Gallagher saw the possibility that Smith would not be sharp enough so wanted to shake the rust and sharpen the reflexes.
Those reflexes have not let him down much in the past and Liam was the Smith brother who took on, and fought for 9 rounds, Saul Canelo Alvarez. Smith’s preparations for the Canelo fight were hampered as he went into that fight without any sparring; he had been cut. All in all therefore, that trip to Spain now appears more sensible than first thought; the law of unintended consequences means that 4 rounder now makes this fight an interim WBO title fight.
Most of this has just passed Williams by. He does not want drawn into a war of words as he has been guilty in the past of allowing that type of red mist to cloud his thinking and preparation. Unbeaten in 17 outings professionally, Williams does not shy away from any confrontation and is relishing the challenge of fighting a former world champion. That it shall now be for the WBO interim super welterweight world title is sweet though it was already a mouth-watering tie, now added to by the sanctioning body.
With Canelo unlikely to defend the title he took from Smith, this is now a real title fight and Williams will need to be at his best to make it work in his favor; should Canelo decide to defend, then the winner would be his next opponent for the full belt.
We have seen what Smith could do in the ring against Canelo, though obviously the British, European and Commonwealth champion, Williams reckons he could do much better.
How so? Well after a distinguished amateur career where he boxed all over the world Williams made his professional debut late in 2011. Boxing a series of journeymen for the next 2 years he built a very serious reputation before his first real test arguably arrived in 2014 when he fought in Germany. There was another win but now the calibre of opponents began to increase.
In November of 2014 he took on Michael Lomax for the Commonwealth belt and won. He then defended that belt and fought for the British title at the same time against Kris Carslaw; another win. Both wins, over a year apart, were stoppages. In 2016 he has managed to defend that British title and add the WBO European title in another stoppage win against Gabor Gorbics.
Stoppages add to your mystique.
But that may be where the fight is lost and won. Williams can only beat the guys who are put in front of him and whilst he has fought and beaten some tough guys like Gary Corcoran, in comparison to Smith, Williams has neither won the big belts nor faced the highest level of opponents. If he is to win then he needs to bring the best Liam Williams there is, and hope the best Liam Smith is still at home watching the TV.
Some consolation might be that there are some great fights out there for Williams no matter what happens on the 8th April in Manchester. He might want to make a good showing count more than a scrappy or lucky win. Stranger things though, ask Roy Jones, JR. or Tony Bellew, happen in boxing so we shall all tune in with the sound up to see what is next in the twist and turns of boxing’s outrageous fortune…Contact the Feature Writers