Liam Smith signs 3-fight deal with Eddie Hearn
By Tim Royner: Former WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith has inked a deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to be one of his stable fighters. It’s a move that will almost surely lead to Smith, 30, being used as the next opponent for Kell Brook to fight while he waits for Amir Khan to get done with his April 20 title shot against WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
Smith (26-2-1, 14 KOs) was promoted by Frank Warren, and he did a good job of leading him to a world title in 2015 in beating John Thompson to capture the vacant World Boxing Organization 154 lb title. Smith successfully defended the WBO belt twice in beating obscure fighters ‘Jimmy’ Kilrain Kelly and Predrag Radosevic before losing his WBO belt to Saul Canelo Alvarez by a ninth round knockout on September 17, 2016.
Smith hasn’t had too much success in his biggest fights in the last three years, losing to WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia and Saul Canelo Alvarez. Smith’s only three wins in the last three years have come against Liam Williams [twice] and Marian Cazacu (2-37-1).
Hearn also promotes Smith’s two brothers WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith and super featherweight Stephen Smith. Liam isn’t in the same class in terms of talent as his younger brother Callum. Liam isn’t considered one of the elite junior middleweights, even though he held the WBO 154 lb strap from 2015 to 2016.
“It’s a little bittersweet to be moving on but I just felt that at this stage of my career a change would serve me well and I’m happy to be joining a great stable in Matchroom,” Smith said in a news release.
It’s unclear what Hearn can do for Smith other than to match him against Brook. That fight will be a good payday for Smith, but it’s possible that he’ll need to wait until after brook faces Khan later this year before he gets a chance at fighting Kell. With the way Hearn is carefully matching Brook (38-2, 26 KOs) against only beatable opposition, he likely won’t want to put him in a risky fight against Smith, who can punch a little, and is a hard-nosed type of a fighter.
Unless Hearn is going to pool from the 147 lb weight class to find guys to match against Liam Smith, there’s not a lot of options other than Brook for him to fight. With Smith’s 3-2 record in his last 5 fights, he’s not a good option to fight any of the world champions at junior middleweight right now. Smith lost his last fight to WBO 154 lb champion Jaime Munguia by a 12 round unanimous decision last year on July 21. If Hearn works his magic to get Smith an immediate world title shot against WBC junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison or IBF/WBA champion Jarrett Hurd, it’s going to look bad in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans.
Smith doesn’t deserve a title shot right now. The guy needs to work his way to a title fight the way other contenders do rather than have one given to him on a silver platter by his powerful promoter. Smith can’t be counted on to beat the talented contenders at 154 like Erislandy Lara, Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, Carlos Adames, Erickson Lubin, Austin Trout or Maciej Sulecki. Those guys are probably all too good for Smith. Once you eliminate those fighters, the only guys that are left, besides Brook, are obscure fighters that the UK boxing public won’t be excited at seeing Smith fight.
One possible move that Hearn will be looking to do is have Smith move up to 160 to challenge WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade for his title. Andrade is one of Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA stable fighters. Since Hearn likes to make in house fights involving his Mathroom fighters, a predictable fight will be for him to have Smith move up to 160 to challenge Andrade. That’s a fight that won’t interest American boxing fans, but it’ll go over well in the UK for the British fans. The problem is that Smith doesn’t deserve a title shot against Andrade at 160 or against any of the champions in the sport. Smith needs to ramp up again by beating some quality fighters before Hearn uses his promotional muscle to get him a title shot.
Smith isn’t an elite talent at junior middleweight, but he’s a good contender. Brook’s recent history of eye problems could make him vulnerable to Smiths hard shots. Brook had problems in his last fight against Michael Zerafa (25-3, 14 KOs) on December 8. That fight showed that Brook can’t be trusted to be put in with any of the good junior middleweights for fear he’ll lose. For that reason, Liam Smith likely will need to wait until after Brook faces Khan before he gets a shot at him in 2020. It’ll be up to Brook though if he wants to take the fight with Smith in 2019. Brook is going to have to fight someone while he waits for the smoke to clear from the Crawford vs. Khan fight. Smith is a good opponent for a domestic level fight.
There are guys that Smith can certainly beat at 154, but Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara are not on that list. Hearn is going to have to be careful with how he matches Smith if he wants to keep him winning until he makes the Brook-Smith fight. That’s clearly the end game for Hearn in signing Smith. In signing Smith, Hearn has a pawn to match against Brook and Andrade.