On June 13 of this year, Southpaw Heavyweight banger China “The Dragon” Smith won the vacant World Boxing Federation (WBF) North American title with a tough unanimous decision victory over the game Mike Sheppard.
Growing up in a strict and disciplined, but loving Christian household, Smith played lots of team sports as a kid, mainly American Football, but eventually followed in the footsteps of his father, a former amateur boxer, into the Sweet Science.
In the amateurs, Smith won all the major tournaments he participated in, including two Sunshine State Games, two Golden Gloves tournaments and the Junior Olympics.
From Sarasota, Florida, Smith (35) is a very popular figure in his local community, and has enjoyed big support from the fans since turning professional at 18 in 1997.
In his 35-4 (27) career, he has won several smaller championships, but he is looking to soon go to the next level and fight for, and hopefully win, a world title.
Thank you for giving me a little bit of your time to do this interview China. To begin with, its well known that you do a lot of voluntary work for your community. Can you tell me a little bit about what it is that you do, and why you do it?
I do mentoring to youths and adults in the community. The reason why I am doing it is because, aside from my parents, I have myself had support throughout the years from various mentors, coaches, teachers and so on, which helped me to get where I am.
Not too long ago a documentary was made about you. Please tell us a little bit about that.
It was shows at the Sarasota Film Festival two nights to a sold-out crowd. It was a humbling experience, being a private person, to have someone take an interest in my life story and seeing it evolve from a promotional video for my July 2013 fight to having it become a documentary.
To know that the people who saw it were inspired by my life-story was such a blessing. My biggest thing is that I have taught those I mentor to never give up on their dreams, and the documentary shows how my story continues to evolve.
Winning the WBF North American Heavyweight title is also a testament to that evolution, and there is more to come.
You are on your way back to the top now, but in 2002 you suffered two straight losses to Saul Montana in fights you were probably favored to win. What happened?
It took a lot of time for me to realize what happened maturity-wise. That was the first time I watched film on a fighter, and I went in thinking I knew what he would do, and I was overconfident and too relaxed.
The taste of my first defeat, and looking back, I went into the second fight having doubts for the first time in my career, which is counterproductive because you have to go into the ring totally confident that you can beat your opponent.
It was definitely a learning experience for me.
Looking at your record. you didn’t fight between December 2006 and July 2013. How come you had such a long lay-off? Did you retire, and, if so, what made you decide to make a comeback?
I decided to take some time off and get involved with my community and start a family. I knew in my heart that I would always come back, but I didn’t plan on it being six and a half years. One thing I never wanted to do is look back and say should´ve, would´ve, could´ve.
In your last fight you won the WBF North American title by beating Mike Sheppard. What are your thoughts on that fight?
Overall it was one of my greatest experiences in boxing, and a blessing to have won the title. I had to make some adjustments both before and during the fight, and it boiled down to who wanted it the most.
I really had to dig deep, and it showed fans and boxing people what a true champion is and the heart and determination that I have.
Do you have a “dream-opponent”, someone you would really love to get in the ring with?
Yes, Wladimir Klitschko. The ultimate goal is to become the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. My goal is to bring the Heavyweight championship back to the United States.
Do you have a message to the fans, or the boxing world, or just something you would like to say in closing?
I thank the boxing world for allowing me to come back and represent team China Smith. So look out for me as I continue to try and do great things in the boxing world.