Callum Smith has a warning for his future opponents as he seeks to become a two-weight world champion: He is a better fighter than when he ruled the super-middleweight division.
Now campaigning at light-heavyweight, the 32-year-old from Liverpool will move closer to a title shot if he defeats Mathieu Bauderlique in an eliminator contest on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, live on Sky Sports Box Office, on Saturday, August 20.
Having stepped up after losing his super-middleweight crown in a unanimous decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in December 2020, Smith is in no doubt he has learnt much from that loss and is continuing to improve as he prepares for the showdown with Bauderlique in Saudi Arabia.
“Losing kind of highlights areas you feel you need to improve on yourself,” Smith told Sky Sports News. “When you’re winning, it’s so easy to brush them away and you’re in a good place because you’re winning and you’re world champion.
“The loss kind of highlighted certain areas and I made changes to my team and moved over to LA for most of my camp. I certainly believe I’m a better fighter than when I was world champion, and I’m confident I can be another one.
“It’s just about being smart and that’s what I’ve been working on; when to throw, when not to throw, when to move and certain positions in the ring.
“I’m always trying to evolve as a fighter and I think too many people get camp mixed up with ‘let’s get fit and in shape’ rather than to improve as a fighter as well.”
Smith could hardly have made much more of a statement on his step up to the 175lb division last September when he stopped Gilbert Castillo with a crushing right hand to the head on the undercard of the first Joshua-Usyk clash.
It was the first time Castillo had been stopped in his professional career and Smith was delighted to answer a few questions outside observers may have had about what impact he could make as a light-heavyweight.
“That got people talking more about I announced myself in the division, I can carry my power up a division, I can punch hard at the weight, and I am improving under my new trainer [Buddy McGirt],” Smith said.
“I believe I ticked every box and I got people speaking about me. The aim now is just to build on that and keep moving forwards.
Becoming world champion at super-middle was proving people right because I was always touted as a world champion, and I don’t believe as many people think I can do it at 175. I believe this one is about proving a lot of people wrong.
“Just because you can punch a bit at one weight, people think when you move up ‘will he carry his power up?’, and stuff. I felt like that was one of the main questions moving up.
“I always knew I had the height, but did I have the physical size and the punch power? To do what I did to Castillo when no other fighter had stopped him and he’d been beaten on points by a now-reigning world champion in Dmitrii Bivol, so I think it was a statement – not just beating him but beating him the way I did.”
Becoming world champion at light-heavyweight would, Smith believes, prove a few people wrong too.
But his main motivation as he prepares to face Frenchman Bauderlique, who comes into the fight off the back of winning his European title clash with Igor Mikhalkin last year, is his desire to become a two-weight world champion.
“That’s why I’m still doing it,” Smith said. “I know there’s more I can achieve and the thought of being a two-weight world champion is what motivates me, drives me and gets me out of bed in the morning and gets me to the gym.
“You always need that reason and I’ve still got it; I’ve still got ambitions to be a two-weight world champion and I’m very close to it.
“I feel I’ve got a point to prove. Becoming world champion at super-middle was proving people right because I was always touted as a world champion, and I don’t believe as many people think I can do it at 175.
“I believe this one is about proving a lot of people wrong. I know how good I am and what I can do, so as much as I’m happy with what I’ve achieved I do feel I’ve got a point to prove by winning another one.”
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!