Pro-File: Mitchell Smith
By Richard Hubbard
Bouts: 13 (13 wins, 7 KO)
Trainer: Jason Rowland
The punch-artist formerly known as ‘The Baby-faced Assassin’ is ready to put his reputation on the line against new opponents roughly four times his own bodyweight.
Now wishing to be known as ‘King Mitch’, unbeaten super-featherweight Mitchell Smith is heading to the lakes of Thailand in an attempt to reign supreme in a competition known as The Big Fish Off, with potential catches weighing in the region of 500lbs.
The 22-year-old, a keen fisherman at home in Harrow Weald, will be up against Ricky Rayment of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ fame, with the pair tutored in the art of Far East fishing by expert Ali Hamidi and former decathlete Dean Macey.
A previous offer from sponsor Korda Fishing to compete clashed with the build-up to the winning of a third professional title last November and now, with a fourth belt already banked and preparations just underway for a return to the ring on October 30, Smith feels the time is now right to clock up some Air Miles and cast himself into the Thai wilderness.
“I like to fish when I am away from boxing,” revealed the current WBO Intercontinental title holder. “There was a show last year just before my November fight for the WBO European title, but I was in full swing in my camp at the time and couldn’t go on. I said if anything else comes up to let me know beforehand and I would take time out to do it. It will be an experience.
“He rang up three or four months ago and asked if I could book time out to go to Thailand for 12 days. It’s an experience in life, it’s meeting new people, trying new places out. It is lake fishing and there are fish weighing 500lb in the lakes out there. Fingers crossed we’ll be catching some real beasts.
“I’m not the best, far from it, but I’m always learning the same as with anything. It is just something that I’ve always liked doing. I am a basic fisherman, but I just like coming away from boxing to chill out and I like the whole camping side of it.
Trips to Thailand can be full of eastern promise and temptation, not least on the food-front, something Smith insists he will have to resist with a home fixture in Harrow looming. Smith takes on George Jupp at his local leisure centre in what should be an intriguing contest.
“No I’m training out there, to be fair! There is a gym at the accommodation by the lake and it’s got its own restaurant, so I’ll be eating clean as I’ve been back training for a week now.”
The placid and patient pastime of sitting quietly by the riverbank is far-removed from Smith’s between-the-ropes persona – cocksure and confident, maybe a little brash, with a bit of attitude.
It is, Smith concedes, one extreme to the other, but points out that walking the walk and talking the talk around fight time is strictly show business, while he is very much a grounded, approachable individual out of the ring.
“Yes, but I am a different character in general,” he explained. “As a person I am very chilled out. When I am boxing people say I am cocky or arrogant, but I just carry confidence – a lot of confidence. It depends what sort of person you are in the way you want to take it.
“I’ve worked so hard from six years of age, I have carried injuries for years and there are still things in my body that are not 100 per cent. Why not enjoy it, I am full of confidence and just expressing the way I feel. I have put in enough to get a lot out and I’m just expressing the fact that I know I can do so well – and I am goner do so well in the game.
Marmite men sell in boxing, the characters who split the watching public down the middle. Love em or hate em, you still pay to watch them fight, often in the hope of seeing them knocked spark out. Smith does not quite put himself in this category, but can certainly see the advantages.
“It is entertainment,” he reasoned. “If you’re boring and no-one wants to watch you, you’re not going to earn money. Whether people like you or hate you, they are still going to watch you. Look at Chris Eubank Jnr. Nine people out of ten I speak to can’t stand him, but they go and watch him. How many views did Prince Patel have on social media? And how many will go and watch him just to see him get beat?
“In theory he is actually selling himself – whether you like him or not. I feel like I’m the opposite of that. Yes I’m a little bit arrogant, but not to people in general – I wouldn’t be arrogant to a person. To an opponent, maybe.
“Anyone would say I’m a nice guy if they meet me out of the ring, I’m down to earth and have been bought up to be respectful.”
Potential opponents, however, can get it both barrels as Josh Warrington will testify to. Smith has engaged in a spot of Twit-for-tat with the European champion on social media, taunting the Leeds featherweight for being feather-fisted and relying on his heavy Leeds United following to provide a protected route to world level.
It is largely light-hearted Twitter-tattle from Smith, who simply wants to keep the pot simmering for a potential future fight between the pair and saw the funny side to Warrington’s retort, describing him as ‘pound for pound the biggest dickhead’ in a recent interview.
“It was funny and I can see where he is coming from,” said a smiling Smith. “I’m shouting a little bit and it has been at him. He had to come back with something because he didn’t say anything for weeks and weeks – and he came back with pound for pound!
“It is a fight I want in the future. I know it is not going to happen now so therefore all the talking that I’m doing is for one reason and one reason only, and that’s a potential big-money fight for me – and him. I don’t think it is a fight he will take while he is at the top. What I mean by that is that he is going to be fed a lot of shit. Brunker (Warrington’s next opponent, Joel) is a 50-50 fight and a bit of a gamble for him, but I don’t know if Brunker hits hard enough to stop Warrington coming forward. So I think Warrington might just overwork him.”
The boxing grapevine suggests that Warrington is being carefully steered towards the cash cow of a summer showdown with IBF champion and stablemate Lee Selby at Leeds United’s Elland Road, so Smith is well aware he will have to employ the patience he displays while fishing in order to hook his own big domestic date.
“Exactly. I’m not trying to call the fight on now because I’m not making featherweight at the moment so it is pointless. What I’m doing it putting my name on people’s tongues and Josh Warrington’s name on people’s tongues. It is like this at the moment, it is going to be a massive fight no matter where it is and a great fight because neither of us take a backward step, Josh comes forward and so do I.
“I’ve got nothing against him, I just think he’s got somewhere where he shouldn’t be, he is not on the verge of fighting for a world title in my opinion, but he’ll get it because of what he sells.”
It is not just on Twitter that Smith lands hefty blows. His Rainham Steel ‘Punch of the Month’ that accounted for Antonio Horvatic in March has been viewed tens of thousands of times on YouTube, bringing with it increased pressure for a repeat performance in subsequent bouts.
His next opponent, Cristian Palma, a ring-wise Chilean, had clearly heeded the hype and set out to spoil, turning the contest into an ugly wrestle. He was still dispatched half way through the ten rounds of a fight that Smith now views as educational and something that was key to his next triumph – a one-round destruction of former Warrington foe, Dennis Tubieron.
“It was very frustrating, but it was a massive learning thing because I went from knocking out Horvatic to thinking I could do that to Palma and it never happened.
“We then go on to the Tubieron fight and we were prepared to be frustrated again. It was a fight where we were taking a bit of a risk because if we didn’t do the job we thought we could do and looked bad with him nicking rounds here and there, then the fight I’ve been calling on with Warrington – or potentially calling on – is then filtered out into nothing. Because Mitchell Smith can’t do what Josh Warrington done.
“So it was a bit of a gamble for me to take that fight. We learned a lot from the Palma fight and the way I performed in the Tubieron fight is because of how much I took out of the Palma fight.
“I’m just becoming a more seasoned pro now and would say the ‘prospect’ side has filtered out now, I’m starting to become a pro and I’m headlining shows and have won big titles.
“Therefore we needed to start performing and acting in the manner that seasoned pros do. Not going in there gung ho. If you watch the Palma fight I went in there very tense trying to land a decent big punch. It is not always the case. I never feel pressure in the ring, but I always feel pressure in my camps that I have to perform in a certain way because of the standards that I’ve set.
“I’m always learning, we’ve taken little things out of every fight and that is what is making me the fighter I am today.”
Promoter Frank Warren reckons Smith has a bit of the young Naz about him, strutting to the ring cool as you like, chatting away as if popping to the shops at Brent Cross. Smith gets the comparison to Prince Naz up to a point, but this young prizefighter wants to live up to his new moniker and be King of the ring.
King Mitch is the new name around the waist, with the discarding of his previous stage name due to wishing to adopt something more exclusive (in fight circles, at least) and punchy – nothing to do with any diminishing of his cherubic features.
“I think Naz was a bit more flamboyant than me and a little bit more unorthodox,” he pondered. “I can see where he is coming from and I like to impress the crowd with entertainment.
“I’ve now got rid of the Baby Faced Assassin! It was nice, but I’m trying to come up with something that’s going to catch and Paul Butler is the Baby Faced Assassin and he was a pro before me. Whenever the name was mentioned people always said ‘that’s Paul Butler as well’, so I need something that’s going to catch on.
“I wear gold and I see myself being at the very top for a long time and I can see myself being one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world – when I get there, I’m not saying now! It might take three years to get there.
“When I do get there, I want to get there and stay there. I don’t want to be rushed and be put in for a world title fight and not win it. I want to go into a world title fight knowing I’m going to come out a world champion.
“I don’t want to lose in this game. I haven’t lost for years now, the last time I did I was 16 and it left a bad taste in my mouth. There is one thing I say I will never do and that is taste defeat again. In my family we don’t like losing even on the toss of a coin.
“That is where the nickname King Mitch comes from. For me, I am potentially one of the best fighters in the world in my division – and that’s why I went with it.”
If losing on the flip of a coin leaves a sour taste, his competitors on the Big Fish Off had better watch out. You can be sure, King Mitch will be in there swinging doing his utmost to reel in the pound-for-pound prize catch.