HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 17.9.16
By Alan Hubbard
Liam Smith is entitled to feel a more than a little miffed that comparatively few members of the British media have followed him deep into the heart of Texas where tonight the intrepid Merseysider puts his WBO light-middleweight title on the line against Mexico’s red hot redhead Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at the 80,000-seater AT&T Stadium in downtown Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The undefeated Smith believes he is erroneously being written off by those home-based scribes who flew out en mass to watch Alvarez’s predictable destruction of another bold Brit, Amir Khan, in May.
The notion seems to be that Smith is sure to suffer a similar fate, so why bother to make the trip?
Yet my feeling is that egg could be left on faces. For I give 27-year-old Smith a much better chance against Alvarez than Khan had, and equally a better one than Kell Brook had against the similarly indestructible Gennady Golovkin last weekend.
Why? Well, for one thing Smith is fighting at his normal weight. Also he is defensively cuter than Khan, and certainly far less gung ho.
Tactically he is more astute than either Khan or Brook, knowing that while Canelo, like Golovkin, is happy to trade blows he can be frustrated by an opponent who counter-punches from behind a tight defence.
That is the technique I sense that Joe Gallagher will instruct Smith to deploy in tonight’s BoxNation-televised tear-up.
While it is undeniable that over the years many British fighters have not travelled well, we should not forget the bravura winning world title performances of John H Stracey over Jose Napoles in Mexico City nor those Lloyd Honeyghan against Don Curry in the United States and Tyson Fury against Wladimir Klitschko in Germany. All were given as little hope as that now accorded Beefy.
And the US is no longer quite the alien territory it once was for Britons. We have witnessed successful acquisitions or defences of world titles in the US by, among others, Lennox Lewis, Ken Buchanan, Kell Brook, Jamie McDonnell, Carl Frampton, James DeGale and Lee Selby.
While the pundits may not rate Smith’s chances, some pros do.
For instance, Smith has the backing of a man who hopes to succeed him as top dog in the super welterweight division.
British champion Liam Williams firmly believes Beefy has got what it takes to trouble the biggest draw in boxing and doesn’t rule out a trip to the bookies to put his money where his mouth is, with Coral currently making Smith a 6-1 outsider.
“Canelo is obviously pretty much top of the tree at the moment, with the likes of him, Golovkin and Ward being the elite,” reasoned Williams, who makes a second defence of his British title against Ahmet Patterson in Cardiff on October 22. “He is a great fighter, but I really don’t think it is going to be an easy fight for him because I’ve got respect for Liam and genuinely think he is a good fighter.
“I think he will surprise a few people and give Canelo some trouble. I’d like nothing more than him to beat Canelo because it would make the division even more exciting than it already is.
“He is obviously the world champion, but he is the underdog. I’m sure he will thrive off that and he seems the type of character that when people tell him he can’t do something, it makes him more determined to do it.
“Good luck to him and fingers crossed he gets the win – it will make for massive fights for us in the future. I do give him a chance, everyone is saying Canelo is going to blow him away.
“I might be wrong, but I would be willing to put a few quid on him. Winning, I don’t know for sure, but I certainly don’t think it is going to go the way the majority of people think it is.”
I agree. Like Williams I am not suggesting Beefy will win but that he is canny enough make the carrot-topped Canelo sweat for his predicted victory.
At times he might even demonstrate that a decent drop of Scouse can be as tasty as a Mexican birria – a stew as hot as Canelo himself.
Believe me, this will be no Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
BoxNation’s exclusive telecast the showdown in Texas starts 1am tomorrow (Sunday).