Britishboxer’s star columnist runs his expert eye over Liam Smith’s ninth-round KO loss to Saul Alvarez for his debut column. “Bomber” also talks about what British boxers need to do to make it to and maintain at the elite level.
Liam Smith was in a very similar position to the one I found myself in when I went to Canada and lost to Adonis Stevenson, so I know how crushing that type of a loss can be. It is all about the kind of person you are. People saw what I went on to do from that fight, and Liam is that type of person too.
‘Liam deserves credit for taking it to Canelo the way he did, it’s just that at that level you’re coming up against people who are exceptional, and that’s the only word I can use to describe Canelo—he’s brilliant, absolutely fantastic.’
He went up against one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. It was a really hard fight. Liam deserves credit for taking it to Canelo the way he did, it’s just that at that level you’re coming up against people who are exceptional. That’s the only word I can use to describe Canelo—he’s brilliant, absolutely fantastic.
Liam will come back, it will take a little bit of time to get that confidence back and I know how that feels. The Valery Brudov fight was my first fight back after the Stevenson loss, I was up in weight as well so also had that on my mind. You’ve got to go back in at a decent level, so Liam should be looking at going right back in at European level.
In fact, I’d like him to fight for the European title because that gives him a barometer of where he is and where he can go. There’s no point dropping too far down the levels because we know he is well above the domestic level. In fact, we know he is world-class so the European title would be something to come back for. It lets us know where his intentions lie.
People read too much into size, ‘Who looks bigger’ and all that—it is about how physically strong the fighter is. Liam looked the bigger man on the scales, but then you get in there and see it is a different ballgame. Kell Brook out-weighed “Triple GGG” on the night of the fight; ultimately, though, natural strength was a factor on the night.
Even if Liam could have out-weighed Canelo on the night he’d found that strength is a difference. Canelo is working with bigger men day in and day out, plus he is not given the credit he deserves from a technical stance. He is quick, slick, technically brilliant, the body shots are crippling and he is good at everything. You can’t underestimate what he brings or take anything away from him.
Canelo was outstanding on the night. The cut was a bit of a disaster for Liam as it happened before the fight, but that’s boxing. Personally, I think he should have hid the cut. I had injuries going in against Ilunga Makabu that no one knew about.
Liam’s cut was seen on videos; he could have wore a headband or a cap for interviews, things like that. I would have hidden it, but it is each to their own. I treat a training camp like it is top secret. That might just be my own personal paranoia, it’s just the way boxing is. You don’t need to be giving away any camp secrets at any stage.
I know what it is like to fight on HBO. It is big news, a different level. I’ve been involved in high-profile fights, like my rematch with the other fella on Sky Sports Box Office yet I’ve not seen anything like of the Stevenson fight. It is different and can drain you. I can even say that after all the media attention that was around me when I was doing Creed.
The good thing for Liam is that the media was concentrating on Canelo so he wasn’t dragged from pillar to post. That said, it will have opened his eyes because he’s been on a massive bill with lots of media attention. I think it is fair to say he will have learned more from that Canelo fight than he learned in all of his previous fights, without a shadow of a doubt.
‘There will be things that Canelo did that will have made him think: ‘You know what, that was so clever’. Stuff like little shots to the body, pulling your arm around and getting to you.’
There are so many lessons you can take, from the media perspective down to how to pace the rounds. There will be things that Canelo did that will have made him think: ‘You know what, that was so clever’. Stuff like little shots to the body, pulling your arm around and getting to you. You do learn things. I learned from the Stevenson fight, stuff like getting my ribs cracked in the third round and different punishing things you go through in a fight like that. Lessons that you can only learn against high-quality opposition.
There are champions and there are world-class fighters, which we have other here, but we don’t have as many elite level fighters. We have Tyson Fury, Carl Frampton, who I believe is at that elite level, and I would also add James DeGale—he is one of the elite and has proven that. We have some solid world champions over here, but when we step up to the elite level, and I’m talking Canelo, Golovkin, Stevenson, Kovalev and Ward, we discover that those are the elite operators. People like that are few and far between, champions fighting champions.
There are very few at that level. Many people are at world-level, but, and there is no two ways about it, Canelo and them lot are right up there. Canelo has improved vastly since the Floyd Mayweather defeat, and in every department: he is quicker, more patient, less predicable and slicker than he was before Mayweather.
Look at him against Angulo and Kirkland. That is the level he has been at consistently and, with no disrespect directed towards either to myself or Liam, we’ve not been at that level.
Liam’s last three fights were John Thompson, Jimmy Kelly and Predrag Radosevic—no disrespect, but how do those fights prepare you for Canelo? That’s the difference. We’ve got to get the big fights over here. I know for a fact that Liam wants those fights—look at how he stepped up against Canelo without batting an eyelid—yet it is hard to get those names over here. He needs people like a Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade. The money just isn’t available to get them over here, so that’s why Liam had to go to them by taking this fight.
Liam will be back, I’m optimistic about how well he’ll come back from this.
‘I think we’ll get there, though. I believe that Callum Smith will get to that elite level as well as a few other fighters. Look, boxing is all about timing—the right fights at the right time. If you get it wrong, you will get beat.’
When it comes to British fighters, I do rate Fury, I do rate Frampton and I do rate DeGale as elite level. I won’t sit here and say I’m at that level. I can say I am a world champion, and probably one of the best in the division, but I’ve not had the opportunity to show I’m part of the elite—I’d have to beat another cruiserweight champion to do that.
I think we’ll get there, though. I believe that Callum Smith will get to that level as well as a few other fighters. Look, boxing is all about timing—the right fights at the right time. If you get it wrong you will get beat.
The best way of looking at it is this: if Anthony Crolla fights Jorge Linares eighteen-months ago he gets beat. Fast forward to now and it is a fifty-fifty fight. That is no disrespect to either Anthony or Jorge. Linares has been in some wars around the world; he is vastly experience and vastly traveled yet this could be the right fight at the right time.
If I would have fought the other fella—you know, the one from the Valleys—as the fighter I am now then I’d beat him easily every time, but I went for the world title after sixteen fights at a time when I wasn’t ready. Although though it wasn’t really a world title fight, it was more of a domestic grudge match.
Things swing both ways, though, and we will have elite fighters coming though because British boxing is going from strength-to-strength right now.
Thinking about it, I missed someone out earlier as I do believe that Billy Joe Saunders is a top, top fighter. I can’t say he’ll get to that elite level just yet—he has the tools, he just needs the fights. The win over Andy Lee showed he has that top title potential; he needs a couple of more of those types of fights to propel him to that elite level.
If he gets “GGG” then it is a big ask, but it is fights like that that give you a chance to get right up to that top level so you have to take a risk if they are presented to you.
More from Tony Bellew coming soon. Follow The Bomber on Twitter: @TonyBellew
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