19th April 2012

Smith in action (left) pic by Al Stevenson

Unbeaten talents Liam Smith and
Ronnie Heffron
meet in an eliminator for the British Welterweight
Championship on Friday 18th May at the Oldham Leisure Centre.

 
The fight headlines an exciting
BoxAcademy show promoted by Queensberry Promotions in association with
VIP Promotions to be televised live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch.
456/Virgin Ch. 546).

 
Glynn Evans talks in-depth to Smith about his background and career so far.

 
Name: Liam Smith

 
Weight: Welterweight

 
Born: Kirkdale, Liverpool

 
Age: 23

 
Family background: I’m the
third of four brothers and I’ve two younger sisters. Me elder brothers
Paul and Stephen have both won British and Commonwealth titles (at
super-middle and featherweight respectively) and our Callum is on the
Team GB amateur squad.

 
Trade: I’m a qualified painter and decorator but now I’m a full-time pro.

 
Nickname: ‘Beefy’. Me dad called me it. I was a fat baby!

 
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? All
me brothers started when they were nine but I was mad on me footy. Even
our Callum started before me and every day they’d harass me to give it a
go. Finally when I was 14 I went to the Rotunda gym which is right on
our doorstep and I liked it straight away.

 
What do you recall of your amateur career? All
four of us boxed at the Rotunda. We’ve never stepped anywhere else. For
me first seven fights I was trained by the late Jimmy Albertini. I won
‘em all then lost me first one when I had a different coach. Later Mick
McAllister became head coach and me dad and a few others helped out.
Mick still trains Tony Bellew today.
All told, I had 78 contests and won
68. I got beat in the national schoolboy finals but I won two Junior ABA
titles plus the national Boys Clubs (NACYPs). I’d say winning me first
Junior ABA title, beating Luke Smedley of Sheffield in the final when I
was 15, was the most satisfying thing I did in the amateurs.
In 2008, I won the senior ABA title
at light-welter beating Steve Turner of the Army in the final. I had
quite a difficult run, had to fight six times.
I boxed about 17 times for England
and only lost three or four. I won Junior and Senior Four Nations gold
medals, boxed in all the home countries, plus Canada three times and
Italy. In my last amateur contest I lost on a majority to Hungary’s
European silver medallist Gyula Kate in Hungary. He was much older than
me and very strong.
But I felt I was getting overlooked
for the big tournaments. The coaches at the time seemed to favour
southpaw boxer types and a few trips I was promised never materialised
so I vowed that I’d turn as soon as I won the senior ABAs.

 
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? Since
I was a kid my style has always been that of an aggressive body puncher
so everyone said I’d be better suited to the pros. After winning the
ABAs, the 2008 Olympic qualifiers had already taken place. The next
Olympics were four years off and the Commonwealth Games another two. Our
Paul and Stephen were already pro with Frank Warren and Frank sent me a
‘Good Luck’ text before my ABA final. Shortly after, we had a meeting
and then I signed with him.

 
Tell us about your back up team: Frank
manages and promotes me and, after being trained by George and Danny
Vaughan for my first six, I’m now coached by Joe Gallagher in Bolton.
Joe’a absolutely obsessed with boxing, spends more time with his boxers
than he does with his family. Sometimes, he’s at the gym from 10a.m to
10p.m.
Bolton is more convenient that Kerry
Kayes’s gym because that was right on the other side of Manchester,
over an hour away. Often, Amir will be around, sparring (British
lightweight champion Anthony) Crolla. 

 
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I
usually train six days a week. Joe picks which day I’ll rest or just
have a massage. He goes a lot on heart monitors so he knows exactly if
you’ve been slacking or need resting. It’s all scientific.
We do all the usual stuff over the
course of a week like shadow, sparring, the bar-bag, pads but no day is
ever the same. You never know what you’re doing and that keeps it
interesting. Joe has a great circuit for our conditioning. Some days
we’ll not even get to put a glove or a bandage on.
There’s a great squad here with my
brothers, the Murrays, (Anthony) Crolla, Scott Quigg, Scott Cardle,
Callum Johnson. There’s great camaraderie and we do everything together.
We’ll train in the morning then, after lunch, we’ll all sit down and
study DVDs of one of the lad’s prospective opponents. Later we all run
together; up the hills, on the track or sprinting. Then we’ll finish our
day with a swim.
Joe is a great pad man so I enjoy
that aspect most. Joe always makes you feel good about yourself. What I
really hate is the running. I don’t so much mind the sprints and the
track but I hate the hills. Still, it’s got to be done.

 
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? Like
all lads who came through the Rotunda, I’ve got good technique so I can
box. But, even through the amateurs, I’ve always been an aggressive
body puncher. I stopped the two before my last fight with body shots.
I’ve also got a tight defence. I don’t take many silly shots.

 
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? You’d
need to ask Joe (Gallagher). He knows all our faults, how to beat all
his own lads. More than anything, I think I need to be kept busy and get
more experience. Ability wise, I already think I’m ready for title
level.

 
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? The
pros have been a real eye opener. Even the little head clashes really
hurt and leave lumps and bruises. The other thing is the bandaging and
little gloves. They make you feel you could punch holes through walls.
It’s scary! I hardly got hit the night I fought Barrie Jones yet I still
finished with lumps all over and a black eye. In the pros, believe me,
anyone can get knocked out no matter how good they think their chin is.
That’s always at the back of your mind.

 
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Ability
wise, it’d be our Stephen in sparring when I was an amateur or early as
a pro. He’d spar 15 rounds straight off, with five or six often heavier
lads and he’d drop ‘em all with body shots, including me. People forget
how good he is because of one silly night (when he was knocked out by
Lee Selby). He’s got everything.

 
All time favourite fighter: Sugar
Ray Leonard. He might not have had quite as much ability as Mayweather
but he took more risks which made him more entertaining.

 
All time favourite fight: I’m
not sure but the best fight I’ve seen ‘live’ from ringside would be
when Ryan Rhodes stopped Jamie Moore for the European light-middleweight
title. I was a huge Jamie Moore fan but Ryan fought him at his own game
and ended up knocking him out.

 
Which current match would you most like to see made? Mayweather-Pacquiao. For me, Mayweather wins a lot easier than everyone thinks. Ability wise, he’s untouchable.

 
What is your routine on fight day? I’m
up quite early, by 9ish, and I like to spend the day with my family. If
I’m at a hotel, my brothers will call to see if I need anything, then
we’ll all go out to eat together. At the venue, I like to get wrapped
early, get me music on and have a bit of banter with me coach, brothers
and mates. Joe’ll warm me up on the pads and I’ll get meself in the
zone.
I usually don’t suffer much from
nerves until the TV fella knocks on the door or Ernie (Draper, the whip)
tells me I’m due on. Then the butterflies start rumbling in the belly.

 
Entrance music:  So far I’ve
changed every fight. Usually a bit of Coldplay or Kings of Leon. I
choose whatever gets me ‘stoked up’ when I’m out running.

 
What are your ambitions as a boxer? If
I can stay busy, I’d like to be at the door of a British title fight by
the end of 2012. I think a Lonsdale Belt is important for every British
fighter and there’s a lot of extra pressure on me cos both Paul and
Stephen have won British titles. That said, I’m confident in my ability
to win even more than that.

 
How do you relax? I still
play a lot of footy, Saturday and Sunday league though I ease off if
I’ve a fight coming up. I play up front. I’m definitely the best of the
four brothers! I also like a bit of snooker and pool with me brothers.
It gets very competitive.

 
Football team: Liverpool. I
get to games when I can. This season I went to Stoke away plus a few
home games. Our Paul knows Stevie Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

 
Read: Boxing News and Boxing Monthly. I’ve never read a book in my life. I just haven’t got the patience.

 
Music: Coldplay and Kings of Leon.

 
Films/TV: I’m big into me films. I like action ones, Denzil Washington, Stallone. On the tele, I like me soaps; Corrie and Eastenders.

 
Aspiration in life: To have a happy, healthy life in which I left no stone unturned.

 
Motto: The world meets nobody half way!

 
Tickets, priced £30 and £60 are available from www.vipboxing.com
Heffron v Smith is live and exclusive on Friday 18th May on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).  Join at www.boxnation.com

 
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