There is something in the eyes and in the posture of Liam Smith when he tells you in that Scouse way of his that he “has a job to do”. The work in question is sharing a ring at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium next Saturday night with Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, the Mexican who is one of the biggest names in world boxing.
Smith will defend his World Boxing Organisation light-middleweight title, while Álvarez is dropping down a division, having vacated the World Boxing Council’s middleweight he successfully defended against Britain’s Amir Khan in May.
“Saul Álvarez is one of the biggest names out there,” Smith said. “and I am going to stop him. When this fight was put on the table, I jumped at the chance. It’s a chance for me to make a name for myself.
“There were different ways I could have gone, against lesser opposition, and worked my way up to a big fight, but I want to do it by beating the biggest name in boxing at the minute. Now Floyd Mayweather has retired, Canelo Álvarez is the biggest draw. He’s the one we wanted.”
“He belongs at light-middleweight. He knows himself he’s a 154[lb] fighter. Size won’t be a factor in this fight and I can’t wait to put on a show and finally make a name for myself out there.”
Smith is the first of four brothers who all box professionally to hold a world crown. Callum Smith, the super-middleweight, is the sibling most likely to follow suit.
Álvarez, meanwhile, the youngest of seven brothers from Guadalajara who have all boxed professionally, is the power puncher who sent Khan to the canvas in a brutal knockout in Las Vegas.
Álvarez said: “Smith is a great champion and a good fighter but this is the best fight for me in this moment. Smith is a totally different fighter to Amir Khan.
“He was a fast, crafty, slick fighter with a lot of foot movement and speed. Smith is a fighter that has good defence and is smart, intelligent, thinks inside the ring and is very powerful. He comes forward.
“The style of Mexican fighters and the styles of fighters from England are great-come-forward styles. Styles make fights and there are great styles between us. It’s going to be a great fight.”
Álvarez has been under pressure to fight Gennady Golovkin, who fought Kell Brook in London last night, and has been accused of avoiding the middleweight king. “If everything turns out good, my plan is to fight in December. But I won’t be rushed. I am 26 years old and have fought some of the best fighters in the world. I am making history every day and in every fight.
“Golovkin is the older fighter and he hasn’t fought anybody. He’s the one who has to worry about his legacy. I don’t have to worry about mine.’’
While ‘Canelo’ – which mean cinnamons in Spanish, and is a common nickname for those with red hair – will be made favourite for this contest, Smith’s trainer Joe Gallagher and promoter Frank Warren are convinced they may have pulled off a masterstroke in match-making.
Gallagher explained: “I think Liam Smith is more than capable of winning the fight. We probably need to get the stoppage. Some people see it as mission impossible but we don’t see it that way at all.”
“I feel Álvarez is making a huge mistake. He really should have taken the Golovkin fight. With that fight he would have got paid well for his loss, whereas in this fight he won’t be getting paid that well for his loss. Liam is very confident.
“They’re both good boxers, both good counter-punchers, hurtful body punchers and both like the knockout. The best man will win and the loser will go back to Mexico.”
Warren concurs. “There are good fighters that tick certain boxes and others that you’re unsure of. With Liam, there are two things. He’s got great temperament. To go and defend his title in the other guy’s backyard in front of between 50 and 80 thousand Mexicans in that massive stadium in Dallas takes big balls. And secondly, Liam can fight. This is a fight to get the key to the door to huge fight nights.
“Go out there and show everybody what he can do. There will be an upset.
“It’s not Amir Khan going up a couple of weights and not taking the power with him. Liam’s fighting at his weight.
“Joe Calzaghe beat Jeff Lacy when he was knocking everyone out. Frank Bruno beat Oliver McCall when he’d knocked out Lennox Lewis. We brought Kostya Tszyu over and Ricky Hatton was a massive underdog. He did it.
“This is a tougher call in as much as he’s going into the lion’s den. But Liam is the best of the four brothers and he has the tools to do this.”