Brother in arms: Interview with Liam Smith
Interview by Lawrence Saunders
As one part of a remarkable Liverpool boxing family, Liam Smith draws strength from the unprecedented success of his brothers, strength which last year saw him become the first outright world champion from this city in 22 years.
It has been confirmed that a potential bout against WBC middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is on the cards – something Liam spoke about during our visit to the Rotunda, adding that a fight with Mexican legend Miguel Cotto in March is also a strong possibility.
What better time for Your Move to sit down with the Kirkdale fighter and find out what makes him tick.
You came to boxing relatively late, aged 14, and before this you had been a keen footballer. Why did you make the switch?
From 11 to 14 years of age I’d come home everyday after playing football in the street and my three brothers would be talking about how hard a circuit had been or asking each other ‘did you see so and so sparing?’. It’s not like I felt left out but very rarely would they ask me what I’d been up to.
We also used to live only a stone’s throw away from our amateur club The Rotunda ABC (amateur boxing club). Everyday I would be here, my dad and my brothers and I would get the coach, Jimmy Albertini asking me when I would be starting.
The main reason though, is two of my mates from school started boxing at Kirkdale [ABC] and I remember thinking, ‘Right, I’m going the Rotunda and I’m going to box one of you’. In the end, by the time I had my first fight just three months later they had quit. Even though I hadn’t been coming to the gym long, I was always boxing in the house with my brothers – I was a quick learner.
You still play football every weekend; do you ever worry that an injury could effect your boxing career? (Liam is nursing a slight leg injury when we meet after playing the day before)
Not really, I haven’t had any really bad injuries, touch wood. Today I’ve just woken up and my leg is a bit stiff. I think the day people will argue with me over it is when I have to go into Joe [Gallagher, Liam’s coach] and I can’t skip because I’ve hurt my leg or my ankle. I think if I ever had to pull out of a fight because of a football injury that’d be something I would have to think about.
I’m not a silly lad and I know anything can happen in football but I could go running and go over on my ankle, so I just think if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen.
I enjoy it as well to be honest with you, it keeps me the way I am. I see my mates every Saturday and Sunday. If I stopped playing football it would make me think I was changing myself. I don’t want people to think ‘ah he’s changed him’. At the moment I’m just going to stay the way I am.
“I’ve had two good offers. The cotto fight would probably make more sense…That’s the one that I would love.”
With all three of your brothers being British champions and successful boxers in their own right, does it put pressure on you heading into a fight, especially if they have won recently?
No, it gives me massive confidence. I said before the Callum (Liam’s younger brother) and Fielding fight – who in their right mind would want to fight Callum after watching Stephen (Liam’s elder brother) win his final eliminator in the way he did? Then I won a world title. That just keeps adding confidence to us.
Success breeds success, everyone bounces off each other – that is from our family and from the gym. We train every day together. We travel every day in the car up to Bolton together, we do all our running together, swimming together. If you ever see a picture of us training it’s very rare you won’t see one of the others in the background.
After your defeat of Jimmy Kelly in December there was talk of a potential match-up with Miguel Cotto. Is this something we can expect to see in 2016?
It definitely is – I’ve had two good offers. Frank [Warren, Liam’s promoter] is in America this week and has told me to sit on them for a bit; don’t make any decisions because he is very confident he can make the Cotto fight for June. I’ve had a good offer for someone else in Vegas (Canelo Alverez) and he has told me not to accept or reject it yet. The Cotto fight would probably make more sense because I could fight in March and then in June. That would be a better option, that’s the one that I would love. I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket though; I would love any of the big names.
“Success breeds success, everyone bounces off each other – that is from our family and from the gym.”
Fighters such as Ricky Hatton are famous for not keeping in shape between bouts. What are you like in this regard?
That is what we use this gym for. This is the biggest blowout I’ve had in years. I’ve had three weeks off from the gym. I had a good week after the fight, I celebrated quite a bit and then I went away with my girlfriend. Since I’ve been home I haven’t really done much.
I can’t wait to get back in the gym to be honest with you. I’m looking forward to it but I needed that break – I had a good year last year because I had no injuries so I was in the gym all year. I did two hard camps back to back, the fights themselves were not that difficult, I was always comfortable when I got in there – it was the 10 weeks before that, making the weight and getting fit. If I’d have taken a Feburary fight that would have been my third fight back to back but I’m not in a position where I have to take these fights now. I am champion.
What are you plans for the rest of your career?
I want to secure my future. I have won titles at every level; Commonwealth, British, two international titles and I’ve finished with a world title.
I was the first scouse boxer to win a world title for 22 years and the next one to win one will be the first scouse world champion since Liam Smith. I could finish tomorrow and no one could take away from me what I’ve done but I haven’t got the money to finish tomorrow!
Is that what it is about now, the money?
Now it is. It was always about being a world champion and I am there now. If it was just about being world champion, I would finish tomorrow but it’s not now. It’s about money and about trying to secure a better future for myself.