The last time Callum Smith fought on an Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk undercard he could not celebrate his victory.
He iced Lenin Castillo with a single shot of such frightening power that it was chilling to see. Castillo was treated by paramedics at once and stretchered out of the ring.
“As much as you want to win, that’s the last thing you want to see. Now and again we do get a bad one in boxing where there’s long lasting damage, no one wants to see that,” Smith told Sky Sports.
“Forget about the win and everything else, that becomes irrelevant, you just want the fighter to be safe and go home to his family. The next morning I had a message off Castillo [that he was alright], so that was good and reassuring.
“I say a prayer in the ring before a fight and it’s not to win, it’s just for myself and my opponent’s safety. Boxing’s a tough sport as it is and we’ve all got families to go home to.”
Looking back on the fight, Smith knows that it was a step to proving himself a world-class light-heavyweight. The former super-middleweight world champion lost his WBA title to Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez and was stepping up to 175lbs to rebuild.
“There were a lot of question marks surrounding me on certain things. How will I fare at the new weight? How will I be coming back from a loss? How will I be under Buddy [McGirt, his new trainer]? I felt I ticked them all,” Smith said.
“I knew it was potentially a tricky fight,” he continued. “He’d never been stopped. But I felt really, really good at the weight, I felt really strong and landing early on it was having an effect on him and obviously landed a good shot which finished the fight.”
Smith answered those questions about himself. He knew he was tough enough for the move up to light-heavy as well. He has boxed in title fights against Alvarez and George Groves but has never been dropped as a professional.
In fact, amateur and pro, there is only one man who has ever put him down – Liam Smith, who boxes on September 3 live on Sky Sports. His older brother dropped him with a body shot in sparring when they were teenagers.
“My dad kicked off on him!” Smith laughed.
Callum Smith’s next opportunity to earn another world title shot comes on August 20 when he boxes Mathieu Bauderlique on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk live on Sky Sports Box Office.
“[People] kind of assume I’ve been given an easy touch in a final eliminator but he’s a good fighter, he’s European champion,” Smith said.
“He went to the Rio Olympics. He got the other bronze [medal]. He’s got good skills, he’s got good amateur pedigree, he’s got good boxing ability. A little bit heavy handed when he lets them go. It’s a tough fight. It’s got my respect, it’s one I’m taking seriously.
“He can handle himself, he’s a good fighter and it’s a big opportunity for himself. It’s probably his biggest fight and there’s a lot at stake for him.”
But he added: “If I’m at my best I can beat anyone in the world at this weight and that includes Bauderlique.”
Smith, a former champion, is a seasoned fighter now but still determined to succeed.
“When everything gets tough you just need that reason why and as long as you’ve got it, you’ll push through,” he explained. “You don’t have to love it. You’ve just got to crave the results so bad that the rest of it’s irrelevant. I’ve always been goal driven and motivated by achievements and the goal of becoming a two-weight world champion is what gets me through.
“I’ve always felt that I want to be a world champion so bad that I’d chase it and I’d go through anything to get there.
“As long as you want it bad enough, I think the rest of it is irrelevant, you’ll do whatever needs to be done to get it done.
“I know what I’m capable of, I know my goals and I know what I can do. I know I can become a two-weight world champion and that thought of achieving is what drives me and I keep chasing and I do believe I will get it.
“You’ve got to have something for when things do get tough. And I’ve still got it.”
Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!