British 168 lb contender Paul Smith, goes into the lions den once again this weekend when he takes on unbeaten American Andre Ward in the “S.O.G’s” Californian back-yard – and ahead of the contest the Liverpool fighter has penned a column for Sky Sports, with whom he works as a pundit, to discuss his thoughts and feelings ahead of Saturday’s fight – which will be screened by the channel in the UK.
Smith, who is coming off back-to-back world title challenge defeats to Germany’s Arthur Abraham, surprised many when he was given the nod to face the American former P4P star, who is returning after over 18 months of inactivity.
In Britain particularly, there were few who felt the likable Smith really deserved another world title opportunity at the moment – however it’s worth noting that Ward’s seeking a comfortable first fight back was largely the reason for Smith’s selection, rather than anything the Brit had done as of late to actually merit the fight.
The now 32 year old Smith has knockout losses to Brit rivals James DeGale and George Groves on his slate who finished him in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Groves took less than 2 rounds. And ahead of this fight, the Brit clearly is under no illusions.
“I know I need Ward to have a bad night and I need to have a good night. I will be bigger, stronger and I’ve got to get inside, rough him up, make him fight my fight. In my opinion he beats most fighters by making them fight his fight.”
Reflecting on his training, Smith, who flew out to the States on Sunday, wrote;
“I’ve been working on everything, putting it all in. I’ve been working harder than ever, doing loads of sparring, just making sure I am sharp and that my speed is at it’s best.”
“The ideal scenario is me catching Andre Ward cold – to walk on to a left hook nice and early! But that’s the ideal for every fight!”
“I am hoping he is rusty and I don’t want him to be at his best. I know we all say we want to take on the very best but there can’t be a fighter out there who wants to see his opponent as fit and focused as possible when they step on in there.”
Knowing he is up against it, Smith’s honesty is refreshing at the very least. If he is to pull off the upset it really will be equivocal to Lloyd Honeyghan stunning Don Curry in Atlantic City 29 years ago. And Smith knows it.
“I want to beat him – obviously – and I will make sure I do the best I can but it would be nice if Ward was nowhere near his best because I know I need every advantage going for me.”
“I’m sure we would all love to see him boxing brilliantly to start with and then me turning it round and pulling it out of the bag in an unbelievable war. That is the stuff dreams are made of but all I want is for him to walk onto a left as early as possible. Get in, get out. That is the dream.”
After Kell Brook and more recently, James DeGale, have turned road warrior in the States and emerged champions – it seems Smith is set upon giving it his best in hope of joining the party.
“British boxing has been doing brilliantly over in America and the flag has been flying so I hope I can do that too. All I am certain of is that I will give it my best. I really will. I am going to give every last ounce and I hope and pray it is good enough.”
As a staunch supporter of British boxing I HOPE Smith can win too. Most Brits do. But the chance of it actually happening?
Slim to none, sadly – though I’m sure Paul will do his best and turn in an effort to be proud of as he did coming up short in Germany.
It’s on Sky Sports in the UK and on BET in the States.