Smith-O’Meara on December 15th in London

Promoter Frank Warren’s end of year extravaganza at the ExCeL London on December 15th was further bolstered last weekend with the announcement that Liverpool’s unbeaten Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith and West Drayton’s Steve O’Meara are to collide for the vacant Commonwealth light-middle title – bringing it to a staggering SIX title fights on the night. Already several respected judges are highlighting it as the potential Fight of the Night.

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Though O’Meara stopped just two of his first pro opponents, his three most recent scalps crumbled inside five rounds combined, including a couple of one round blow-outs in Southern Area title fights.

Jim McDonnell has coached the 28 year old father of two throughout his entire 18 fight pro career. Here, in his own words, the former European featherweight king and two time world title challenger discusses O’Meara’s dramatic development and explains why he is so confident that his man shall prevail over Smith.

“I’ve been working with Stevo from Day Scratch, before he even turned professional.

When Simon O’Donnell first brought him to my gym, Stevo had no amateur pedigree, just a bit of unlicensed stuff. Physically he was The Weakest Link, easily the weakest pro I’ve ever worked with. His ground work was abysmal and I thought he was going to get really chewed up in the pros.

But, in almost five years, he’s only lost two fights, both controversially. Boxing News had him up when he was supposed to have been outpointed over six rounds by Joey Selkirk up in Liverpool. I also had him up. He definitely won it nicely but it was against a Scouser, in Liverpool, with a Scouse referee. Other than that, Steve’s only other loss was a split decision over three rounds to Brett Flournoy in Prizefighter. Steve ain’t a three round fighter.

Lately ‘The Quiet Man’ has really come through and made himself known. I’ve had him spar with James DeGale, Carl Froch, Darren Barker, Nathan Cleverly and even Floyd Mayweather. He surrounds himself with excellence. He’s a very late developer and the best is yet to come. There’s not a light-middleweight in the world I’d not put him in with. If I managed a different light-middle, I’d be swerving Steve O’Meara like the plague.

When Stevo wins the Commonwealth title on December 15th and he will, it’ll be my proudest achievement and greatest triumph as a coach. He came to me with no amateur CV and was technically basic. Once a kid wins a title they flourish. He’ll improve 20% and be unstoppable. Then let the show begin!

The transformation has occurred largely due to three things; his determination, his physical strength and the timing of his punches.

For a start, he really lives the life. There’s no alcohol intake. Even as a novice pro, he used to make a round trip of 70-80 miles a day to train with me. He’s got young children and, trust me, they’re his everything. But for this, he’s put his family on hold, hooked himself up in a hotel nearby and is training like a lunatic, three sessions a day. I physically have to stop him.

Nobody deserves their opportunity more than Stevo does. He’s such a good guy, a great friend to James (DeGale); often helps him out at very short notice with sparring even though he doesn’t live local.

From being the weakest at my gym, he’s now pound for pound the strongest. Physically he’s a proper force at 154 (lbs). He does a lot of rope climbing and he’s got this Russian strength and conditioning coach called Serge. Together they do a lot of MMA work and grappling. He’s throwing fit 17 stone guys all over the place. Now he’s sparring 12 rounds straight off and he looks the real deal.

But the reason that he’s started knocking everybody out lately isn’t so much his strength as his timing. Before, he was looking for the knockout too much. Now he’s relaxing more and his timing on the floor-to-ceiling ball is unbelievable. Floyd Mayweather doesn’t time a right hand any better than Steve O’Meara. He’s knocked three out consecutive plus several others at the gym. Make a mistake against him and you’re going to pay. Now he’s going to start destroying kids at top level.

His mental strength is phenomenal. He’s really in the zone right now and just won’t be denied. If you played in a football team, Steve O’Meara is the man you’d want to drive it. He’s one tough son of a gun. He’s got an iron will to go with that iron right hand!

People just don’t realise how good he is. He looks like a model, hardly ever has a mark on him because he’s got great all round defence. He’s learnt his art. As Floyd Mayweather told him: ‘Any fool can get hit!’

People say that this is a risky fight but, if I’d not taken it, I doubt Stevo would have spoken to me again for the rest of our lives! Anyway, when you’ve handled yourself with the type of kids he has in sparring, you’ve not got to worry about the Liam Smith’s of this world.

That said, we’re certainly not underestimating Liam, he’s a hell of a good fighter, a former senior ABA champion and a very proud Scouser from a proper fighting clan. He’s strong, has good skills, both offensive and defensive. He’s also got deceptively long arms plus he’s a thinker. We know he’ll turn up in good condition and with plenty of fire in his belly. He’ll be really up for it too.

It’s because of the respect we have for him that, that Stevo’s left no stone unturned in the gym and will ensure he’s 110% on the night. That’s why we’ve been sparring bigger, heavier world champions. It’s gonna be a great fight for the British public.

But Stevo wins because he refuses to lose. He works alongside winners every day and it rubs off on him. I’ve seen him work flat out with Floyd Mayweather in the gym and he took care of himself. After that, Liam Smith is a day off for Steve O’Meara!”

WBO World Lightweight Champoin Ricky Burns v Jose Ocampo headlines a massive six-title card that features George Groves defending his Commonwealth Super-Middleweight title against Glen Johnson in the chief support; plus Commonwealth Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders defends his title against Nick Blackwell with the vacant British title also on the line; unbeaten Bradley Skeete challenges Southern Area Welterweight Champion Chas Symonds for his title and WBO International Cruiserweight Champion Tony Conquest defends against Neil Dawson.


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