THE BIG INTERVIEW - JEZ SMITH
By Richard Hubbard
After seven fights that he concedes haven’t done much to stir his own juices, Jez Smith insists he is more than happy to cast aside the water wings and take the plunge into the sport’s deep end.
After turning pro at the beginning of 2015, Smith – younger brother of former WBO European champion Mitchell – has been learning the ropes against standard novice fodder. Four-rounders against seven opponents with 28 wins between them.
It is pretty much a compulsory route that nigh on all bar the most elite amateur champions travel, but it is rarely a journey of thrills and spills along what is generally predictable terrain. Smith wants his satnav to steer him off course and onto a more hazardous pathway.
If he does come a cropper, then it goes with the territory. That’s showbusiness and Smith wants his career coupled with entertainment value. He also wants to know himself where he is at and how good he actually is.
It is a refreshing outlook from one in a sport packed with young thrusters who have a strange reluctance to fight each other. To pick on someone their own age.
The 22-year-old Harrow boy holds no such reservations and, ahead of his return to the ring in his home town on October 8 at the Harrow Leisure Centre, the prospect of fighting unbeaten Wythenshawe tyro Macaulay McGowan was waved under his nose.
McGowan, 10-0, has been earning rave reviews in the north west and is ahead of Smith in terms of rounds and victories, already having gone down the stretch in an eight-round examination.
The welterweight’s acceptance speech took as long as it takes to instantly utter the word ‘yes’ and now just awaits confirmation of his agreement being reciprocated.
Smith would love it if this particular plan comes together. Especially in his Harrow homeland where he and Mitchell have no problem planting bums on seats.
“They’ve chucked an opponent at me in Macaulay McGowan, who is also with Frank Warren and is 10-0 over eight rounds,” he confirmed. “It is a step up for me because obviously I have only been doing four-rounders so far.
“As soon as they said the name I snatched at it. It is a fight I will definitely take and I know 100 per cent I can beat him and have the tools to do it. I have had a little look at him and it is a fight I have accepted from my side. I’m just waiting for confirmation and I will crack on and get to work.”
While he is clearly not contemplating the idea of defeat, Smith is not in the business of just jealously preserving an unblotted copybook. He wants to take purposeful strides in his career rather than continually take baby steps and doesn’t view defeat as irreversibly damaging, as long as it is in fights where the odds are not unreasonably loaded in his favour.
“Of course it ain’t!,” he speedily concurred. “I think prospects should be fighting prospects, this constantly fighting journeymen thing isn’t right. At the start you fight a few to learn your trade, but when you get to 6-0 or 7-0 you should be putting these boys together. Why not? It ain’t the end if you get beat and you would be beaten by an unbeaten fighter.
“If you want to push on to titles and stuff like that you need to be beating boys like this if you think you are good enough to move on to better things.
“If you’ve fought no-one you could go in at area or English level and get beat. I’ve always said after a few learning fights you should be fighting other prospects. It is good for the spectators and, at the end of the day, you want people to come and watch good fights rather than asking them to come and watch you take on journeymen.
“When you are fighting journeymen you don’t really know your levels, get comfortable in there and make mistakes. When you are fighting other prospects, you won’t be making those mistakes or, if you do, then you are not at the level you think you are.
“Come October 8 I will know the level I am at and will be more than ready to get in there and take an ‘0’.
“At the end of the day he has only fought people like I have, he hasn’t fought anyone half decent and nor have I. It will show where we both are.”
When Smith was signed up to fight under the Queensberry banner in the middle of last year there was the hope he would develop in tandem with brother Mitchell on the same cards.
Mitchell, it appeared, was on a one-way ticket to the top before his ticket got surprisingly clipped by George Jupp in their delayed December encounter in Manchester. The older sibling taking time out to rediscover his mojo put the brothers in arms roadshow on the backburner.
Now both are ready to take centre stage in Harrow in support of Liam Walsh striving to become top seed for a shot at the IBF super featherweight world title in his final eliminator against Andrey Klimov.
“I dunno really, it was the plan but Mitchell getting beat by George Jupp put it back a little bit,” he reflected on the glove brothers tour. “I know hard Mitchell works and, as long as he lives it right and doesn’t muck about like he did it will happen for him again.
“I hope this will launch it, Mitch will have his comeback fight and if I get Macaulay McGowan – and I’m confident of coming through that – then hopefully Frank can do a big Harrow show with Mitchell fighting for a big title and me on it as well.
“I can still see that happening, why not?
“I am really looking forward to this one, it will be the first time me and Mitch are on the same show. We were meant to do it before, but injuries got in the way, and we will have a good crowd there with us doing around 400 tickets.
“I really like it there. When people see it is in a leisure centre they think ‘really?’, but when you go in there the venue is actually really nice. It is a good set up and it will be a good night with a bigger crowd than you can get in York Hall.”
Mitchell’s decision to start afresh under the watchful eye of Adam Booth resulted in Jez also having to seek out pastures new, with the pair previously trained in Loughton by Jason Rowland.
The younger Smith was the collateral damage of Mitchell parting ways with Rowland, but he is now happily ensconced in Kings Cross at Times ABC.
“The change of trainer has been alright, I’m now working with Dave Streatfield and it is really enjoyable. It is a different type of training that I’m doing and it is going really well.
“No disrespect to Jason, who got me to where I was and got me into it full-time. He did a lot for me, got me fit and pushed me all the time.
“I think it was more awkward for Jason than me, to be fair. I got a text off him one day saying I would have to find myself a new trainer.
“I’ve got no hard feelings over it, if that is how he felt that is fine by me. We will get on fine when I see him because he is a nice fella.”
Smith suspects we haven’t really seen him punch his weight as of yet, not demonstrating his full potential as a big-hitting welterweight. He believes his performances in potted four round contests have been patchy up to now and he requires the motivation of a tall order, which he will hopefully have to deliver on in his first outing of the new season.
“I don’t think anyone has seen the best of me yet, I’ve been wanting to step up for a couple of fights now as I can’t really get out of gear in four-rounders, especially when I am fighting opposition where I am not getting out of second gear.
“That is why when I got offered a big fight over eight rounds I snapped at it. People might favour him for having done some eight rounders, but I know what I have done in the gym and the extra rounds is not going to be a problem for me.
“I know I will work myself into it. People will see the difference in me on October 8.
“From my first fight up to now there have been a lot of silly mistakes I have made that I can’t make next time, like coming out with my chin up and stuff like that. We’ve worked on it and in my last couple of fights it hasn’t happened.
“I’ve just got to keep switched on and stay focused. A couple of times I have been guilty of bringing myself down to the level of my opposition, no disrespect to them, so with a quality opponent you will see a different me.
“I haven’t stood out before but, let me tell you, on October 8 I am going to stand out massively and bring my A game. I know for sure I ain’t walking out of there no loser.”
If this fight – and others like it – come off, the guaranteed winners will be ticketholders or those with eyes glued to BoxNation.