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The Curious Case of Callum Smith

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By Ajuan Isaac – George: In Some ways, three fourths of Liverpool’s favorite fighting family, the Smith’s – Paul, Liam and Stephen- perfectly embody the characteristics that have been the crucible of British sport for the best part of the last few decades ; hardworking, resilient and tough, but ultimately not quite skilled enough to cut it among the elite.

At the crucial moment, the quality always seems to be lacking. That is not a dig at the Smith’s by any stretch of the imagination. The brothers have carved out careers that most boxers would trade their right hand for. Yet, whether it’s oldest brother Paul coming up short against the likes of Andre Ward, George Groves or James DeGale or whether it’s the recent parade of fourth place finishes by British athletes at the World Athletics Championships this summer in London, the Smith Clan seem to work in tandem with the institute of British sport, as both ultimately always seem to fall at the final hurdle.

Despite the continued woes of British sport, we need only look at the recent Women’s Euro 2017 competition where England’s national team crashed out in the semi final after a 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands, hope remains for the Smith family. Although it can be fairly suggested that middle brothers, Liam and Stephen, are capable of winning world titles of their own (Liam for the second, time having briefly held the WBO belt in the 154lb division before suffering as KO defeat at the hands of Canelo Alvarez in September of 2016), the majority of their hopes now lie with youngest brother, Callum, who according to his older siblings, is the most talented of the bunch. Callum, who is yet to taste defeat as a professional, will get his opportunity to prove his mettle in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament.

Surprisingly, given his lack of experience at world level, Callum Smith enters a field that includes the aforementioned WBA world champion George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr, as the bookies favourite. That begs the question, is Callum Smith worth the hype?

On paper, the obvious is answer is yes, particularly if we take into consideration that his record consists of 22 victories, 17 by way of often devastating stoppage , and of course, zero loses. In terms of in ring ability , “Mundo” as he is often referred to, represents a difficult stylistic matchup for anyone in the division. Standing at 6ft 3in, he is massive for the weight. Despite this, Smith seems most comfortable fighting on the inside, his bodywork shining through as his most prolific and devastating offensive weapon.

The argument can be made that the Commonwealth and European level at which Smith has been matched in his last dozen or so contests, many a British prospect has looked like world a beater in the making before eventually succumbing to defeat against elite opposition. One suspects that Smiths own acid test will come in the latter stages of the tournament rather than sooner.

Although it is the largest collection of elite 168lb fighters since the heralded Super Six Series that concluded at the back end of 2011, there are several notable fighters missing. Chief among them are IBF king James Degale, who is sidelined through injury and WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez, who fights at the end of September. Smith’s first round opponent is unbeaten Swede Erik Skoglund. Although in possession of a more than respectable record of 22 bouts and 22 wins, Skoglund started his career as a cruiserweight and has fought as heavy as 180lbs back in 2011. When it comes to big weight cuts, history suggests that even if he makes the 168lb limit, a weight he is making his debut at, Skoglund will struggle to be at his best in Liverpool’s Echo Arena on September 16th.This, in combination with Smith’s body punching suggests that it may be an early night for Skoglund.

As the tournament’s second seed, it’s arguable that Smith is on the lighter side of the draw and will not come up against a genuine world class fighter unless he reaches the final, where common knowledge dictates he will face either Groves or Eubank Jr, depending on the outcome of their anticipated semi-final that will happen if they both make it past their first round opponents.

If Smith feels the pressure of living up to the family name, he doesn’t make it obvious. Although the Super Series is sure to be an altogether different beast, in his highest profile contest to date, a battle for the pride of Liverpool against Rocky Fielding, a first round KO victory suggests he is not one to be overawed by the occasion.. By the end of the 2017, Paul Smith seems likely to announce his retirement while Liam and Stephen will attempt to work themselves back into contention at world level. For Callum Smith, the time is fast approaching in which he must prove that he is not another false prophet of British boxing and is indeed capable of living up to, and ultimately surpassing, the lofty heights of the Smith name.

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