In his most recent bout, Liam Smith (left) stopped Jessie Vargas. Photo by Ed Mulholland/ Matchroom Boxing
Former junior middleweight titleholder Liam Smith will continue his quest to become a two-time world champion when he faces the dangerous Hassan Mwakinyo at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Saturday.
Smith, who is rated No. 7 by The Ring at 154 pounds, appreciates that he could have a difficult night against the unheralded Tanzanian, who he once sparred over six rounds in 2019.
“[Mwakinyo’s] not a bad fighter,” Smith told The Ring. “[He] came over, beat Sam Eggington and is unbeaten since. But, with all due respect, I’m not Sam. [Mwakinyo’s] a dangerman, as in he swings wild and is quite heavy-handed, but, at this level, I should be switched on to stuff like that.
“Funnily enough, he was coached by my coaches, Joe McNally and Declan O’Rourke, for two of his fights. I’ve got no fear of taking the fight because of how the spar went. I’m also not going to draw too much from the spar. Sparring is sparring.
“Put Hassan in front of me with 10-ounce gloves on, in fighting shape, with a crowd, and a bit of fear in me, and I think I’ll be far too good for Hassan. I’m confident in my own ability and I’m confident I’ll get the job done September 3.”
This wasn’t the fight Smith was looking for, but he was only too happy to face Mwakinyo at the broadcaster’s request.
“I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said the former WBO junior middleweight titleholder. “(UK broadcaster) Sky [Sports] wanted Hassan. I had other people who I picked: Greg Vendetti; a decent American, and Dennis Hogan, but Sky wanted Hassan. Sky think he’s a dangerman, and have good footage of him beating Eggington. Sky put him to me, and I was happy with that.”
Smith, 34, had been promoted by Matchroom Boxing for the past few years but decided the time was right for a change.
“Everyone thinks I left them, [but] I was a free agent,” Smith insisted. “Eddie [Hearn] was offering me something, and Sky was offering me [something]. I also had two other offers on the table: one in America; a two-fight deal, and one elsewhere. I was a free agent and the Sky offer just made sense to me. Everybody involved knew. Sky knew I was speaking to Eddie. Eddie knew I was speaking to Sky. It was not done with any malice. It was not done sneaky. I was not playing them off against each other.
“To be honest, nobody threw a name at me besides Sky. They mentioned a possible [Chris] Eubank Jr. fight. A couple of things Sky put in the contract tipped me over the edge and sealed the deal. I thought [Eubank Jr.] could easily be made.
“He hasn’t fought Conor Benn over me. The process is, I have one fight on Sky, he has one fight, and maybe we fight in the second fight. That’s a possibility. If he beats Conor Benn, I’ll fight Eubank next. But a lot can happen, and it’s no given that he wins, though I do fancy him to beat Benn.”
Last October, Smith defeated crosstown rival Anthony Fowler (TKO 8) and, more recently, former titleholder Jessie Vargas (TKO 10). The hope is that those wins, and another impressive outing against Mwakinyo, will push him closer to a world title fight.
The ultimate goal would be a crack at the winner of Jermell Charlo-Tim Tszyu, who will contest the undisputed junior middleweight championship in January, but Smith knows that he must stay busy in the meantime.
“It depends on what mandatory situations come,” the ex-champ explained. “I’m No. 2 with the WBO and No. 3 with the WBC. I think my name’s good at the moment and a voluntary defense is not out the question for the winner of that fight.
“I feel if Tszyu wins, I’ll be next in line. We’ve spoken about that fight for a long time. If Charlo wins, it’ll be interesting to see what he does. I’m in a good place if I beat Hassan. I’m sitting pretty.”
Mwakinyo (20-2, 14 KOs) turned professional in 2015. The Tanzanian boxer was upset in his third fight when he was stopped by Shabani Kaoneka (KO 6) but rebounded to exact revenge with a first-round knockout. The 27-year-old was widely outpointed by Lendrush Akopian (UD 10) in Russia, but has returned with 10 wins, notably stopping Eggington (TKO 2) on British shores, as well as former unified junior welterweight titlist Julius Indongo (TKO 4).
Smith-Mwakinyo, plus full supporting undercard, will be broadcast live on Sky Sports at 7:00 p.m. GMT.