So after much rumour and speculation, the confirmation has finally arrived, and it will be Britain’s Paul Smith (35-5, 20ko) who squares off in the opposite corner to the returning Andre Ward (27-0, 14ko) on June 20th in Oakland, California.
Ward is one of America’s best in my opinion, and despite a 19 month lay-off will walk into this non-title bout a heavy betting favourite against the Liverpool fighter, who has been cruelly referred to by fans as “not even the best super middleweight in the Smith family” in reference to younger brother, undefeated 168lb contender Callum Smith (15-0, 11ko).
Talk was rife in the UK that it would be the Liverpool man facing Ward, and this speculation intensified when Smith flew out to New York on Tuesday. The other name reportedly in the frame to fight Ward, Rocky Fielding, has announced he will instead fight American Brian Vera. Whilst a date and venue isn’t confirmed for that fight, it’s believed Vera is coming to the UK.
It’s unclear where UK fans will get to the see the fight but it’s to be screened on BET in the States as part of a new broadcasting deal they have with Roc Nation. It would seem that HBO, who Ward appeared on last, passed on the chance to screen the fight as Smith is not (rightly) what they deem a top-level opponent.
Smith has been beaten in his last two fights – world title challenges to Germany’s Arthur Abraham. The first fight, whilst being close and competitive, created controversy over the famous dodgy scoring British fighters seem to endure over in Germany. A rematch was granted but Smith was beaten soundly.
For a man who was stopped in 2010 by a then novice James DeGale and knocked out in 2 rounds by George Groves a year later, Smith has done remarkably well to secure this fight, as aside from the Abraham fights he has been pretty unremarkable since. Whilst it is by no means a “money-fight” one has to think at 32 years old, coming off dual defeats, there are few options left for Smith now, and a comprehensive beating at the hands of Ward will surely signal the end for him career wise. It’s not even for a title.
Either way, I wish Smith all the best as I always do with British fighters but one has to be realistic with regards to his chances. I just don’t see him having any.
He has begun to pop up more frequently on British broadcasts with Sky and is a knowledgeable and insightful pundit. In my eyes he could carve a career out of it after June 20th as it could well be his last fight.
Of this upcoming bout with Ward he said;
“I can’t wait to get back in the ring and test myself against a class act like Andre Ward. I proved I belong at top level with the Abraham fights. Andre is a top P4P fighter and I respect him a lot. But he has only boxed the once in almost three years and I intend to give it everything. I am fresh and confident and it’s a massive opportunity for me. I’ve spent a lot of time boxing out in the States and I shall look forward to returning for this fight”
Ward himself summed up with;
“I’m very excited to be returning to my hometown and it’s been a long time coming. I have an extremely tough fighter in Smith in front of me and he’s going to be looking to pull an upset. I can’t allow that to happen. As always I’m going to be looking forward to putting on a show for my fans and for those watching on BET.”