Hearn says Liam Smith will fight for World title in 2019
By Scott Gilfoid: Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s going to have former WBO junior middleweight champion Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith (26-2, 14 KOs) challenging for one of the world titles at 154 by the end of 2019. Hearn signed the 30-year-old Smith to a three-fight contract with his Matchroom Boxing promotion this week.
It’s unclear why Hearn only signed Smith to a 3-fight deal rather than a longer term. Some fans might construe this as a sign that Smith doesn’t have the shelf life to be signed for a longer deal. If Hearn sticks Smith in with Brook and/or one of the world champions at 154 like Tony Harrison or Jarrett Hurd, he could quickly have two defeats on his record. Smith already lost his last fight to WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia last July in Las Vegas, Nevada. If Smith loses two out of the three fights he has on his contract with Matchroom, it would make it awfully tough to see him as worthy of being re-signed by the wily Hearn. It might take a miracle for Smith to be re-signed by Hearn after his three-fight contract runs out. Losing all three fights is certainly a possibility for Smith if Hearn puts him in with life bodies, and not the type of guys that he’s mostly been feeding on during his career.
Smith is expected to be put in with a soft job in his first fight of his 3-fight contract with Matchroom. After that, Smith will be matched against the likes of Brook, Hurd or Harrison in the last two fights of his contract with Matchroom. Smith will be fighting his first of his three-fight contract with Matchroom Boxing on march 30 against an opponent still to be determined at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
Hearn isn’t saying which of the 154 pound champions he plans on putting Liam Smith in with, but it’s common knowledge that WBC junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison is interested in a UK fight, as is IBF/WBA champ Jarrett Hurd. Either of those guys would likely fly over to the UK to defend against Smith if Hearn gives them a nice offer to make the trip. Harrison and Hurd are interested in defending against Matchroom stable fighter Kell Brook (38-2, 26 KOs, who is better known that Smith, and would likely have a better chance of bringing in a larger crowd. But with Hearn’s deep pockets, he can probably lure Hurd or Harrison over to the UK for Smith to take on.
The chances of Smith beating either of them would quite small, as he’s not an elite level guy. We’ve already seen that again and again in Smith’s losses to Saul Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia. With Smith’s 12 round unanimous decision loss to World Boxing Organization junior middleweight champion Munguia (31-0, 26 KOs) last summer on July 26, you can rule out Hearn trying to put a rematch together between those two anytime soon. Munguia trounced Smith in beating him by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 116-111, 119-108 and 117-110. The most accurate score of that bunch, as far as this writer is concerned, was the 119-108 score. It was a one-sided rout from start to finish. Smith was just taking one-way punishment for 12 rounds. You can call it a moral victory for Smith that he was able to go the full 12 round distance, since that’s the only positive takeaway from that fight for him.
It was initially thought that the main objective behind Hearn signing Smith was so that he could put him in with Kell Brook, who doesn’t have an opponent to fight now that Amir Khan has decided to challenge WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford in his next fight on April 20. It’s believed by some boxing fans that Hearn and Brook want nothing to do with the talented junior middleweights like Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd, Jaime Munguia, Tony Harrison and Erislandy Lara. So by signing Smith, Brook has an opponent for him to fight in 2019 while he waits for Khan to get done with his fight with Crawford.
“I feel he has plenty of big fights left in the tank,” Hearn said to the liverpoolecho.co.uk. “He has only ever lost at elite level against Canelo and Munguia and has boxed on a huge stage and platform in the US. His return on our big Liverpool card will pave the way for him to try and regain a version of the world title later this year,” Hearn said.
It sounds like Hearn is going to use his promotional muscle to get Smith a quick world title shot after he takes his March 30th fight, which is expected to be a tune-up level match. On the fact of it, Smith getting another world title shot so quickly after his recent loss to WBO champion Munguia last July almost seems unfair. With the many contenders sitting and waiting patiently year after year for a world title shot against one of the champions, it would look bad if Smith is quickly given another fast fight against a world champion after losing last year to Munguia. Of course, we don’t know who Hearn plans on matching Smith against in his next fight on March 30.
Assuming that Hearn sticks Smith in with a talented junior middleweight like Erislandy Lara or Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal for Liam to be given another quick world title shot at 154, assuming that he beats one of those guys. However, it’s unlikely that Hearn is going to put Smith in with a live body on March 30. What we’re likely going to see is Smith matched against either a domestic level fighter with limited talent, that the UK boxing fans are familiar with, or he’ll be put in with a fringe, bottom ranked contender for an easy win.
Hearn could then use the victory over the contender as a way of justifying to the boxing public that Smith rates another world title shot. For Hearn to do it the right way, he would need to match Smith against someone good like Lara or Williams, but it’s doubtful he’ll take that risk with him. The 35-year-old former WBA Super World junior middleweight champion Lara is still fighting at a high level, and he would be bad news for a fighter like Smith.
Hearn likely wouldn’t make a fight between Smith and Lara in a million years, even though he could easily make that fight if he wanted to. Likewise, Julian Williams is all wrong for Smith as well. Williams has good punching power, a nice jab and excellent size. He’s a cut below the world championship level, but he’s still more than good enough to beat gatekeeper type fighters, and former paper champions. Smith would a lot of problems with a guy like Williams, and it’s hard to imagine Hearn even considering making that fight happen.
A lot of the boxing fans are saying on social media that the main reason Hearn signed Smith is so that he put him in with Brook, and continue to avoid matching him against the talented junior middleweights Hurd, Charlo and Harrison. That would be pathetic if that’s the only reason Hearn signed Smith, so that he could protect Brook from being pressured by the public to fight Hurd, Charlo or Harrison. There is massive money for Brook and Matchroom to make if/when the Khan fight is made between them. But it’s a bad look if Hearn is going to just put Brook in with weaker guys at 154, and not the talented guys. Brook already has had two tune-up fights against Sergey Rabchenko and Michael Zerafa.
If Hearn puts Brook in with Liam Smith, that would be a third tune-up fight, and it would be absolutely forlorn at that point. With all the bragging that Brook did about how he was going to move up to 154 and take on the champions, we’ve not seen that. A year out since Brook’s move to 154, his opposition has been underwhelming in that division to say the least. If Brook and Hearn want to make believers out of the boxing public, they need to show some courage and take on Jermell Charlo, Hurd or Harrison.