Liam Smith “looked old” against Chris Eubank Jr. says Paulie Malignaggi

By Boxing News - 09/02/2023 - Comments

By Jake Tiernan: Paulie Malignaggi says 35-year-old Liam Smith (33-4-1, 20 KOs) “Looked old” tonight like a fighter that could no longer pull the trigger on his punches, even when Chris Eubank Jr. (33-3, 24 KOs) was standing right in front of him in their headliner at the AO Arena in Manchester, England.

After the fight, Smith mentioned injuring his left ankle in round four, but he getting outworked long before that by Eubank Jr. The injury had nothing to do with the outcome.

Smith looked old and nothing like the fighter he’d been in 2015 when he defeated John Thompson by a seventh round knockout to capture the WBO junior middleweight title.

Initially timid, Eubank Jr. warmed into the contest and gained confidence as the rounds went by when he discovered that Smith was not letting his hands go.

Smith was dropped in the fourth and in serious trouble in the fifth when Eubank Jr. hit him with a storm of punches.

For all intents and purposes, the fight was over after round five because Smith was throwing nothing back and getting buried by the hard shots from Eubank Jr.

“It was a 50-50 fight going in. You couldn’t know which direction it was going to go,” said Paulie Malignaggi to Boxing King Media about the Liam Smith vs. Chris Eubank Jr. fight.

“I felt Eubank was doing fine in the first fight until the knockout. So there wasn’t a lot to adjust, as long as mentally he was okay.

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“I felt that the onus was on Liam to make physical adjustments because he wasn’t doing well in the first fight, and then he kind of caught lightning in a bottle. It was a good performance from Eubank.

“I wouldn’t say surprised because in the first fight, he [Eubank Jr.] was pretty much dominating that fight, and then he got stopped.

“I was thinking that if he could kind of put that performance together again without getting himself caught, Liam didn’t really have a lot of answers. That’s what it looked like tonight.”

It was obvious that Smith didn’t know what to do, but even if he did, he looked afraid of Eubank. What was troubling was how Smith allowed Eubank Jr. to repeatedly tie him up in the early rounds without fighting through the clinches and hammering him with his free hand.

“It didn’t look like Liam could pull the trigger. He kind of looked old, actually, and Eubank ruined his confidence as it went on and on and kind of ran away with it,” said Malignaggi.

“Liam will probably take some time off. He’s not the youngest guy. He looked like an old man tonight. He was sometimes in range, and he wasn’t getting his punches off the way he should and kind of holding his punches. That sometimes happens when you’re a little older.”

Smith already looked old before he fought Eubank Jr. the first time, but the reason he did well in their first fight is because Chris foolishly backed up against the ropes.

If you’ve watched Liam’s fights during his career, he’s always done well when his opponents have backed up against the ropes. He knocked out John Thompson & Jessie Vargas when they were against the ropes. When Canelo Alvarez fought with his back against the ropes in his fight with Smith in 2016, he did well until he was knocked out.

“For Eubank, he got a big win on a major network [Sky Sports & ESPN+] in front of a big crowd like this. He’s got a lot of options. He’s a middleweight,” said Malignaggi.

“The middleweight division, I feel, is kind of open right now in terms of the world title mix. Everybody has kind of left the middleweight division. So there’s some open stuff going on.

“Then, of course, the Conor Benn fight will be there as well if they can figure out a weight because I’m not sure that whole catchweight would benefit Eubank Jr.,” said Malignaggi.