‘I didn’t have to trash anyone to be the best’
Callum Smith won the world title his way to add to three brothers’ boxing feats, says Gareth A Davies
The family emotion when Callum Smith stopped George Groves to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the No1 spot in the supermiddleweight division was overwhelming in the ring in the final of the World Boxing Super Series last week. The Smiths got rowdy in Saudi.
The eponymous spiral trophy, the World Boxing Association crown and The Ring magazine belt all belonged to the 28-year-old Liverpudlian after he ended Londoner Groves’s reign with a left hook and a body shot in the seventh round. But what spoke most was the fighter sinking to his knees, only to be enveloped in an instant in a familial blanket by his three older boxing brothers and his father. It was a moment to savour as the youngest of the Smith warriors completed his rite of passage.
Father Paul has been there for every one of his sons’ collective 128 professional fights: for eldest Paul, Stephen, Liam and now Callum. Each of them has fought for a world title.
Smith told The Sunday Telegraph this week: “You saw from their reaction how much it meant to them. Every win is important to us and we celebrate together. With me being youngest, they’re quite protective of me. They’re my biggest fans, and have been down the years. They’ll tell anyone who listens that I’m the best and I will go on to achieve it all. To see me do it, and to see me beat the best, it was just as good a feeling for them as it was for me.”
Margaret, his mother, stays on lockdown during any of her sons’ fights. She cannot bear to watch. “She gave me a big hug when I got back and told me how proud she was of me. She’d been saying all week I was going to do it. Whether she actually believed that, I’m not too sure. She said she always believed in me.
“I think she goes off my dad’s and brothers’ mood during fight week and if they’re calm, she’s calm. She’s happy it’s another fight gone and we’re closer to the finish line.”
Smith’s quiet demeanour has barely changed in the past week as he has gone about his media rounds.
“It’s just the way I am. Outside the boxing ring, I was a shy kid and quite quiet. I’m never going to be one to shout my own praises. I don’t have that fast tongue like Tyson Fury or Conor McGregor.
I am who I am.
“I’ve always felt I was good enough. If you’re good enough, people will want to watch you regardless and you’ll get to where you want to be without having to trash talk.
“It’s nice to be able to sit here and say I’ve done that. From my pro debut to the best in the world, I did it my way. I didn’t have to call anyone out or trash anyone to do it. Every time I’ve got in the ring I’ve performed, and that’s made people want to watch me.”
Smith has had to bide his time for this moment. He is unbeaten, freakishly big for the division at
6ft 3in, has genuine power and ever-developing boxing ability. It stands him in great stead to dominate the weight class.
“I’ve always believed I could outbox anyone of the top 10 in the world. I had not earned the right to say that. I’ve got a belt now, and I’ve got the right to say that. I do believe I’m the best in the world and can beat any supermiddleweight out there.”
Smith certainly matches favourably against other world title-holders, Jose Uzcategui (International Boxing Federation) and Gilberto Ramirez, (World Boxing Organisation).
“I think they’re good fighters and all quite different. They’re all quite young, all four champions are in their twenties. Groves and James DeGale are in their thirties.
“Ramirez is a southpaw, very skilful and can fight the body. There’s some very good fights out there that would be classed as 50-50. I’m not head and shoulders above them all, they are tough fights. Hopefully, a few years down the line, I’ll have won some of the other belts and cement that I am the best in the division.”
The big ambition is to defend his title at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC. “I’ve always said I’d need a world title to do it,” he said. “Now Anfield has got a licence to do other sporting events, so it feels that little bit closer. Tony Bellew did it at Goodison, boxing outdoors, so it can be done. With the right fight and right undercard I believe it will happen and I have spoken to Eddie Hearn about it. “Hopefully, Liverpool will win the [Premier League] title, and then I’ll fight there next summer.”
‘It was just as good a feeling for my family as it was for me, we celebrate together’
Ring master: Callum Smith claimed the WBA title and the Muhammad Ali Trophy (below)