All the elements appear aligned for super-talent Mitchell Smith to explode onto the major title scene this year.
Now free from injury following knee surgery, and having graduated from a quality apprenticeship that brought 11 straight wins plus the Southern Area, English and WBO European super-feather titles, the 22 year old from Harrow Weald is focussed on converting rich potential into something more concrete.
After a four month hiatus, the boxer with the baby face and butchering fists reminded everyone of his pedigree in late March by bagging BoxNation’s inaugural ‘Knockout of the Month’ award, by wasting Croatia’s Antonio Horvatic with a blistering five shot blizzard at the York Hall.
On Saturday, at the SSE Arena in Wembley, mighty Mitch will now challenge for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental Super-Featherweight title against Cristian Palma, after initially announcing a move to featherweight.
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“It was probably the best combo I’ve landed in a pro fight and it stood out because it ended in a spectacular knockout,’ recalled the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’.
“But it’s nothing I haven’t done before in the gym. I know what I’m capable of when I land clean. I throw all shots with speed and mean intentions. The end product just happened to be far more destructive because I was wearing 8oz gloves.
“Now that I’m injury free, I’m capable of doing a lot more in the gym. As a consequence, I’m far fitter and far more confident.”
The knee problem and a prior stomach strain confined the 2011 ABA champion to just three gigs in a frustrating 2014 campaign so he is now eager to crack on.
He says, “after fighting on the Friday night, I was back in the gym sparring Josh Leather the following Monday morning, no pause. That’s exactly what I need; to keep busy and stay focussed. I was straight back eating clean. I’d no time to put unwanted weight on.”
While Smith has previously conquered a Latvian, an Estonian, a Hungarian and a Croat, Senor Palma – a 30 year old, 30 fight veteran who’s mixed in decent company – represents his first Latin American test.
Mitchell says: ‘There’ll be new challenges. I’ve studied Hispanic fighters for a long time and they seem tougher human beings than Europeans, they certainly hold a shot better.
“Obviously I’ll be looking to hurt him as early as possible so I can have my own way but I doubt I’ll be able to just bully the lad. It’ll be more a gradual wearing down process.
“The kid has 20 wins on his record so he’ll not just be coming to ‘guard up’. From tapes, he seems quite game, he’ll come with ambitions. He’s been in with some very good kids.”
The North Londoner knows that a sizzling show on Saturday will likely see him crash the sanctioning body’s world listings. However, more immediately, he eyes a more local prize.
“I’m still a few fights off world level. I need more distance fights. But the British title is a prestigious belt that I definitely intend to win this year,” he confides.
“As Frank Warren won the purse bids for the vacant British title fight between Ryan Walsh and Samir (Mouneimne), it should be easy to match me with the winner. I expect that’ll be Walsh but he’s not exciting enough to be our champion.
“He’s been trash talking me lately, saying my record is polished. But I’ve beaten more unbeaten fighters than he has.
“I expect European Champion Josh Warrington to get hammered by Lee Selby later this year and when he drops back down to domestic level I’ll beat him comfortably too; I don’t rate him!
“It’s my dream to top the bill at the O2 in London or even Wembley Stadium but you need a rivalry.”
But this weekend, young Smith has more immediate business to take care of and expects his own huge band of supporters to be out in full force.
“I’ve already shifted over 400 off my own doorstep and no doubt more will walk up on the night,’ claims the man who offloaded a remarkable 1400 briefs for his WBO European title win in November.
“It’s nice to be liked and I like to give back, meet up with my fans. I think they just see me as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ kid, who’s willing to learn and confident of his ability to produce and excite in the ring. They always know that, even if I’m not at my best, they’re in for a decent fight.
“Come Saturday, I’ll be looking for another dominant, professional performance to show my class and light up Wembley.
“If there’s a knockout, great. If not, it’s a big step up and some quality rounds in a new weight division. Win-win.”