HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 8.4.17
By Alan Hubbard
In over half a century of covering the fight game there are few domestic punch-ups I have looked forward with as much relish as Tonight’s Manchester bill. It is a real humdinger.
I like the balance between the big hitters and the stylists, the old(ish) and the new. It promises to be a long night, one of class pitted against clout and I suspect, a cocktail of controversy; a fitting spectacle for BT to make its debut in tandem with the now well-established Channel of Champions BoxNation. One that’ll turn on the fans at the Arena ringside and entice those at home to turn on the telly.
Bill topper Terry Flanagan is my kind of fighter, one who lets his fists do the talking and I believe they will speak loud and clear against the fifth contender for his WBO lightweight title, the resolute Russian Petr Petrov, who is certainly no slouch.
Unlike some lesser contemporaries, Flanagan is not all mouth and boxing trunks.
I think this will be the Turbo’s toughest test, but one he will come through like the quality performer he is when faced with decent opposition.
But on a bill crammed with fistic sweetmeats, like the much-vaunted pro debut of Nicola Adams and a genuine new heavyweight hope in Daniel Dubois, Liam Smith and Liam Williams cannot fail to provide a scintillating slug-fest even though the Liverpudlian cannot claim the WBO interim super welterweight titleeafter failing to make the stipulated weight.
But it will still be a belter, literally so in Williams’ case because if he wins the title is his. And my hunch is that he will.
I think this is one that will be fought as much in the corners as mid-ring.
Joe Gallagher knows the ropes inside and out and as usual will have mapped out a game plan for Smith that will rely on Scouser Beefy’s aptitude for stalking and surprising his prey.
But personable ex-fighter Gary Lockett, who mentors fellow Welshman Williams, is emerging as one of the most astute young coaches in the game. He hasn’t been as vocal as Gallagher in the build-up to what cannot fail to be an epic, but he had this to say when we caught up with him recently.
We asked him:
Have you been surprised over the theme Liam Smith tried to create for this fight, suggesting you are like a Mother Hen to Williams?
I take that as a compliment. All I can say is, if you see where Williams comes from and have seen the type of person he was – and the amount of heads he cracked on the way up from a 15-16 year old boy – you would understand he is not scared of no man. No matter how big or small, how fat or thin.
I just take it all in my stride and I’m sure after it, no matter what happens, we can all be friends again. It is all part of the game, I don’t take much notice of it and certainly don’t get offended by it.
If there is anything said against me I take it as a compliment and I tell Liam Williams the same.
Was he just trying to get Liam going after he got wound up before fighting Corcoran?
Maybe, because I think that is the only time we have seen Liam lose his cool and you can’t blame Liam Smith if he is trying to do that. He wants to win the fight and is trying to get all the advantages he can.
I’d do exactly the same.
Frank Warren said this is a fight he could put on in a telephone box, but could it be more tactical than people think?
Maybe so, because when you’ve got two fighters at the top of their game, two highly-rated fighters with so much on the line, are they really going to go hell for leather from the first bell?
I can’t really see it. It might be tactical for a while but I think it will explode into action sooner rather than later. It probably won’t stay cagey for too long.
Is this where Liam shows everyone there is more to him than brute force and power?
Yes, but where has this brute force and power thing come from? It has only come in the last two fights. If you look at him before that, nobody talked about it before then.
People have got very short memories, you see. He will show there is a little bit more, but not too much more.
Have the last two fights created a perception of him?
Brute force, yes maybe, but there is more to him than that. This is a fight where there is going to be brute force between two come-forward fighters.
In answer to your question, I would like him to box a little bit more but, jeez, I can’t control what goes on when he gets in there. Hopefully he listens.
Is this a fight where you need to be in control of your boxing and, perhaps more importantly, your emotions?
I think it is a fight where both really need to be listening to the coach because, as we’ve seen in the past, Liam Williams can lose his cool, but we’ve also seen that Liam Smith can get irate with people as well.
It is a fight where Liam Smith needs to listen to Joe Gallagher – who is a fantastic coach who I have the utmost respect for – and I think Liam Williams definitely needs to listen to me.
Is he a good listener?
Erm, no. I’d like him to listen a little bit more, but I think every coach would say that. If you asked Joe Gallagher about Liam Smith he would probably say exactly the same thing.
He probably listens, but it is about implementing it?
It is about putting it into practice and executing the gameplan. Whoever executes the gameplan better stands the best chance of winning the fight.
Is this one of your biggest fights as a trainer?
Yeah, it is up there. Obviously Gavin Rees against Broner was a big fight and, I know it wasn’t a world title fight, but Enzo against Roy Jones was big. In front of 12,000 people, it was quite daunting over there and we had all the Hell’s Angels to beat as well as Roy Jones!
The stakes are very high here, so it is up there as one of the biggest.
Does it fire you up?
It is even worse for me as a coach as well because I am close to Liam as I was close to Gavin and Enzo as well. I need him to perform and he will perform because he knows what is on the line.
This is a fight that Liam Williams needs. Put him in with the likes of Patterson, Corcoran and those type of guys, they are good fighters, but I believe Liam at his best is a class above those.
So carrying on at British title level I don’t think you were going to see the best of him. Fighting someone who has been a world champion like Liam Smith will bring that out of him.
With an Interim title there is no turning back if you win?
He is up for it, 100 per cent, and I think it has come at the right time. He is the kind of fighter who can take these sort of fights after just 16 or 17 because he has got class in every way, shape and form.
His ability and the way he performs rises to the level of his opposition. You can put him in with anyone and you will never see anyone get the better of Liam Williams in sparring. Never.
Would another two or three fights have done him good?
I don’t see that they would have been learning fights because they wouldn’t stimulate him and he would do all the wrong things. He tries getting the fights over with early and that is not the way to go. You have to keep composure and go about your work with a little more finesse.
It was a fight that I couldn’t turn down for him, he wanted the fight. I turned the fight down once before when he’d had 10 or 11 fights and, if you put all the ingredients in the pot, of course he shouldn’t have fought him then.
I just believe now that he’s got that little bit more experience and, talent-wise, he is absolutely phenomenal and one of the most talented guys I’ve worked with.
He just needs a little bit of luck and things to go right on the night. He can definitely be a world champion.
Fascinating stuff. It is one I find hard to predict but, with a half-Welsh wife and a son born in Liverpool, fence-sitting seems a prudent course. But push me hard and I’ll veer towards Williams by a late stoppage or ko, largely because though Canelo Alvarez, who eats Brits for breakfast, found Beefy harder to digest than most, he did inflict damage that may well take its toll.
Flanagan v Petrov, Smith v Williams and the professional debut of Olympic heroine Nicola Adams will be televised live on BT and BoxNation this Saturday night. Tickets on sale at Manchester Arena.