Defiant Liam Smith determined to ‘close walls’ on Welsh star Liam Williams

Defiant Liam Smith determined to ‘close walls’ on Welsh star Liam Williams

Clydach Vale’s Liam Williams (16-0-1, 11KO) has long been earmarked as one of Welsh boxing’s brightest sparks and six years after making his debut, ‘The Machine’ is now 36 minutes away from changing his life.

Capturing the WBO Interim belt on Saturday 8 April, which is likely to be upgraded, would enter the 24-year-old in to the history books as Wales’ 13th world ruler. To do that, Williams’ task at the Manchester Arena is to overcome Liam Smith (24-1-1, 13KO), who has already had a taste of the title, albeit too brief for Beefy’s appetite.

Williams has faced plenty of adversity, coming through the small hall scene and recovering from two career-threatening injuries. Still, Liverpool’s former champion will be Dully’s highest hurdle so far and whilst Smith’s words are delivered calmly, there’s a firm undertone that none of the Welshman’s conquered foes have subliminally expressed.

Speaking at their second press conference at Cardiff’s City Hall in mid-February, super-welterweight Smith issued a stern warning. He said: “There’s no personal dislike. I don’t like Liam Williams at the moment; I want to take his head off but that’s boxing terms and boxing terms only.

“If I have to slag him to get up for a fight then I will but at the moment, I don’t need to do that. I don’t need to win this battle sitting at a table. I know if I do what I have to do in the gym, that’ll be my battle won. If I turn up and perform 100%, then I think that’s my battle won.”

Since that meeting, ironically on Valentine’s Day, there has been no love lost and insults have been more forthcoming, leading Smith to be more blatant in his analysis. Being the second youngest in a quartet of British champion siblings would boost any boxer’s knowledge, though Smith insists assessing Williams is simple.

The 28-year-old said: “I think we’re going to gel. I don’t mean this in a bad way but we’re two solid, basic orthodox fighters. There’s not too many gimmicks about us. Liam does nothing out of the ordinary and neither do I. He’s a basic orthodox fighter and so am I.

“He has good straight shots, good one-two, jab and right hand. There’s not many more things that he does very well. He’s a big light-middleweight. [If] you deal with that, you deal with Liam Williams.

“Liam Williams will be very competitive early on, he may win rounds or may not win rounds early on but like Jimmy Kelly [WTKO7], the walls will close in on him when you’ve got me in front of you.”

A large portion of Smith’s confidence comes down to a belief that he’s already been at the top. It’s true that he’s held domestic honours before Williams and has also held the WBO world title. However, many observers refuse to recognise the opponents he took when winning and twice defending the vacant belt – John Thompson, Kelly and Predrag Radosevic – as world class challengers.

The one genuine top-level operator Smith took on happened to be one of the sport’s genuine superstars, Saul Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican probably won every session and scored three knockdowns en route to recording his 34th early finish. Still, Smith was undeniably eager until the end, enhancing his reputation in America and earning praise from HBO’s commentators.

Smith rejects any notion that knocks his record, choosing to compare it to Williams’ as a smile grows across his face. The proud Scouser said: “He [Williams] will probably be the best [except Canelo] but I’ve seen someone saying he’s fought better opposition… who? Gary Corcoran [WTKO11]? You know, I don’t wanna slag Gary Corcoran but he’s not the best, at all.

“I fought Eric Ochieng [WPTS12] when he only had one loss, then fought Jason Welborn [WTKO6] who only lost to Frankie Gavin, I fought Mark Thompson [WTKO4] on the back of Jack Culcay for a WBA Inter-whatever. Thompson had more knockouts than I had fights at the time. You know what I mean?

“They were talked about at the time as more a 50/50 than Liam against Corcoran. I fought them at good stages when they were in their prime and coming to win. That aside, regardless of who has fought the better opposition, I’m the better fighter and I’ve been in the better quality opposition.”

Joe Gallagher, who has amassed one of British boxing’s most high profile stables, has been with Smith since 2010. After the gym enjoyed successful run of wins that twice stretched to the half century mark, recent times have been harder on the Bolton based group. They haven’t won 45% of title fights since the start of 2016, though Smith has retained full faith in Gallagher and believes scrutiny should be placed on Williams’ relationship with his trainer and manager, world title challenger Gary Lockett.

“It’s not about getting him to bite. I’ve said, I don’t need to win the fight at the table. I’m just getting across what I want to put across. I firmly believe that he does keep needing Gary to drill it in to him. I think Gary will play a big part in his camp,” said Smith, a two-time ABA champion in the unpaid code.

“I know where the coach is coming from but I know Gary needs to keep assuring Liam. I know Liam isn’t the most confident person in the world, he’s had numerous chances to bite back at little things. I know not much has been said in terms of us having a go at each other but you know, I’ve said things he could’ve jumped on and he hasn’t.”

There’s eight days to go until the two Liams meet live on BoxNation TV and BT Sport. Whoever prevails with the win will kick off another chapter for the almost immortal Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren.

“I just think I’ll be in front of him, he’ll try to take me out with every shot and it’ll be his downfall,” said Smith in conclusion, unwavering in his belief that there won’t be a new face at the forefront to fly the flag of the ‘New Era’.

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