EXCL: Liam Williams determined to make ‘lifelong dream’ come true with win against Liam Smith
Clydach Vale’s Liam Williams (16-0-1, 11KO) will face Liverpool’s Liam Smith (23-1-1, 13KO) in a mouth watering domestic showdown.
The fierce super-welterweight fight will take place at the Manchester Arena on Saturday 8 April as Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren launches his new partnership between BoxNation TV and BT Sport.
Should the WBO title become vacant and added to the mix, Williams will attempt to become Wales’ 13th world champion in just his 18th outing. It would match the number of fights it took Cardiff’s Barry Jones to make history and only Cefn Fforest’s Robbie Regan has reached the feat in fewer outings.
The 24-year-old Welshman said: “I can’t explain [what it would mean], I just can’t put it in to words. It would be amazing but not just for me. It’s for the Rhondda Valleys; I know how proud my family would be, too. It means everything to all of us.
“My motivation is to do it for my daughter and my partner. I’m lighter right now than what I was six weeks away from my last fight. That goes to show how much motivation I have. It’s a lifelong dream and I am raring to go.”
Following Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s decision to face fellow Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez 10lbs above the super-welterweight limit in May, the WBO 154lbs belt is likely to become vacant. Canelo captured the strap in September when he dropped 28-year-old Smith three times and halted him inside nine rounds at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, United States.
Williams doesn’t expect the result to impact his own fight with Smith. He said: “At the end of the day, I know he [Smith] lost his last fight and he got stopped but look at the opposition he’s in against. I thought he done really well, by the way.
“I think our styles will gel really well. I’m going in there with a game plan but on the other hand, I’m not one to shy away from a fight either. I’m not going to pretend that I’m going to go run away because that’s not going to happen. I’ll use my head but I won’t be running away from him, not at all.
“My last couple of fights, I haven’t had respect for my opponents. When someone like Liam Smith is coming towards you, you’ve got to have respect because he’s a good fighter. I believe that will bring out the best in me because I won’t go in trying to blow him up, like most of the other I’ve fought.”
Smith’s fight with Canelo ended his 11-month reign, which included three previous knockout wins over unknown opposition in John Thompson, Jimmy Kelly and Predrag Radosevic. The once-beaten Scouser, who is managed by MGM Marbella and trained by Manchester’s Joe Gallagher, hasn’t fought since. However, there have been press releases issued in the meantime, on behalf of Smith, which have been less than complementary towards his rival.
Williams said: “I don’t know what he’s going to try and do [in the build up]. You know, I’ve been there and experienced the pre-fight insults before. The Gary Corcoran [W TKO11] fight was bad tempered, which worked against me but I’ll be honest, I don’t actually dislike Liam Smith. So, it’s a different ball game.
“I just think he realises I’m a legitimate threat. He’s going to defend himself against that. He thinks he’s the best and there’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. I’ll be doing more of what I’ve done before. If it’s not broke, why try to fix it? I do believe I’ll have a calm head, keep my temper low and use the ability I know I’ve got.”
Williams would qualify for a vacant title shot due to his third place ranking with the governing organisation. America’s former champion Demetrius Andrade and Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto, who is tattooed on Williams’ back, are higher in the rankings but have other fights scheduled against Jack Culcay and James Kirkland, respectively. Smith is now ranked sixth by the WBO.
The pair have been on each other’s radar for over two years, dating back to when Williams was made mandatory to Smith’s British belt. A hand injury meant ‘The Machine’ had to undergo career-saving surgery, though insists he would’ve taken it at any point.
He said: “To be honest, I would’ve taken the fight well before now but obviously, for one reason or another, Gary [Lockett – trainer and manager] has been looking after me like any good manager should.
“We just feel like now is a good time. I’ve gained more experience since the last time the fight was talked about and I believe I’m ready to do the job.”
The Manchester Arena is Britain’s largest indoor venue and has hosted two of Williams’ best performances of his six-year career. In 2014, ‘The Machine’ broke out on to the scene with a six round thrashing of Ronnie Heffron and in 2015, he flattened Scotland’s Kris Carslaw in less than four minutes to become British champion.
The venue has a capacity of 21,000 and Williams will be bringing his fair share from the Rhondda Valleys and South Wales. He has established one of the fastest growing fan bases in Britain by headlining back-to-back shows in Cardiff at the Ice Arena Wales and Motorpoint Arena. It’s understood Smith’s team weren’t keen on him coming to Cardiff, though Williams has no reservations about competing in the North West.
He said: “Do you know what? I’m a bit happy that it’s not at home because when I fight at home, there’s a lot of pressure. So, with it being away, it’s less pressure and I tend to box better when I’m away. Not as many people know me and I’m able to enjoy the occasion a little bit more.
“Of course, it’s still gonna be more attention than before because it’s a world title fight. It’s the biggest fight I’ve had and the most coverage, especially with BT Sport involved. It’s going to be a massive occasion and I can’t wait.”
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