News May 2019

Gallagher: Smith spars Macklin, hopes for breakout 2014


By John Wharton | By @Wharto15

Liam Beefy Smith

Trainer Joe Gallagher believes 2014 could be the year British and Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Liam Smith 15-0-1 (5 KOs) makes his mark on the world scene. This time last year, Smith was preparing to fight for the vacant Commonwealth title against Steve O'Meara. Now, a year on, the likeable Liverpudlian will make the first defence of his titles against Heywood's Mark Thompson 25-3 (15 KOs). Gallagher is happy with the progress his charge has made this year and believes a win over Thompson will be the icing on the cake. Thompson, however, wasn't the initial choice of opponent for the champion's first defence.

“I'm surprised the opponent is Mark Thompson," remarked Gallagher

"We looked at Jason Welborn first but the board turned him down, which surprised us as he's won twice since losing to Frankie Gavin. Whereas Thompson hasn't fought since Prizefighter and he lost there. I don't know how the board work these things out but they've made their decision and we'll abide by that.”

Thompson has been inactive since his Prizefighter semi-final loss to Welshman Dale Evans' and has lost two of his last three bouts. The Manchester-based trainer, Gallagher, believes Thompson will be grateful for a shot at the title and for a pre-Christmas pay day.

Despite any misgivings about Thompson receiving his title shot, he is an opponent the trainer will not be underestimating. Gallagher believes that, ultimately, Smith's quality will shine through.

“Thompson is a strong kid, he'll be coming to win the British title and give himself a big Christmas present. It's a huge ask because, as Liam's trainer, I'm glad I don't have to come up with a plan to beat Liam Smith. He's got it all and I wouldn't know where to begin. After this fight, I wouldn't hesitate in putting him in with the likes of [Sergey] Rabchenko. Last time out, against [Erick] Ochieng, he nullified him and put in a great performance to take the title and I'm expecting another one on December 7th.”

The champion has had quality sparring this year. For the [Max] Maxwell and Ochieng fights, he sparred unbeaten American, Cecil McCalla, and for this fight he has benefited from having more world class sparring at Gallagher's Gym. The champion has also impressed with his recent efforts in training, and Gallagher believes an opponent like Thompson will bring out the best in Smith.

“Liam is looking great in the gym. He had a bad hand after the Ochieng fight but that's recovered and he's been back sparring. He sparred [Matthew] Macklin the other week and we're bringing in other sparring for him. We've studied and watched Mark Thompson and, as I said earlier, I wouldn't know where to begin in devising a plan to beat him. You don't know if he's going to box you or if he's going to fight you. He's more than capable of doing either and I think Thompson is going to be in for a tough night. Whatever Mark brings on the night, Liam is more than able to deal with. Thompson is a determined, focused and strong kid. I know he'll be training like a demon for the fight but skills pay the bills, and that's what Liam has got. I'm expecting him to have Thompson out of there by around round nine.”

Gallagher believes Smith is one of the most underrated champions in the country at the moment. It puzzles him that Liam seems to be the Smith brother who is least spoken about within the boxing fraternity, with much of the attention focused on Paul, Stephen and baby brother Callum.

“He's a British and Commonwealth champion but he's the Smith brother who has flown under the radar. When people talk about who is the best Smith brother, they mention Callum, Stephen or Paul but I think Liam really could be a world-level fighter. He's a really talented fighter and one of the most improved in the country, and he's determined to win the Lonsdale Belt outright. He's a student of the game, he reads situations very well, and his thirst for the game is second to none. I wouldn't say he shuns the limelight but he just wants to get on with the fighting. If he could, he'd spar or do the pads in every training session. He really enjoyed sparring at the Wildcard Gym [Freddie Roach's gym in LA] against the likes of Wale Omotoso and [Michael] Medina over there. I know that when Liam steps up to world-level further down the line, he'll do it no problem.”

Next year will hopefully be a big one for the scouse light-middleweight, and his trainer believes the hard work Smith consistently puts in during his gym work will be rewarded. The aim for next year is to gradually improve the level of opponent 'Beefy' faces and push on towards European, and eventually world level.

“He's a grafter in the gym and he doesn't shirk, I just wish he'd give the football up! I really hope that in the next year we see him moving on to the world stage. That's our aim for 2014. We'll be looking at fighters like Ishe Smith for Liam, and I'd have no qualms about putting him in with someone like Rabchenko. Brian Rose is now mandatory contender for the WBO title and that would be a great fight for British boxing, if we could get Liam and Brian facing each other for a world title.

"We wish Brian all the best for his world title fight. Bobby Rimmer really deserves a lot of credit for that. But all this talk of the future means nothing unless we defeat Mark Thompson, and that's the fighter we're looking at for now. Liam is coming on now and we're hoping that 2014 might be the year of the Beef!”

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