Paul Smith says Callum has improved under Buddy McGirt and now coming into his own
Paul Smith spoke to Betway ahead of Callum Smith’s showdown with Artur Beterbiev.
He spoke about inactivity being a factor in the fight, Callum’s ability to knock out Beterbiev, a Canelo rematch, Dmitry Bivol and much more.
Both fighters have been inactive, but Artur Beterbiev is now 38. Do you think age could be a factor in this fight?
"It could be a factor because, as we all well know, age catches up with everyone. No one has ever beaten Beterbiev and that is a massive achievement for a boxer, so we respect him hugely, but he’s not getting any younger and he’ll know that, too. Callum does have that on his side being five years younger and I honestly feel that he is really coming into his own.
That maturity comes with experience, but make no bones about it, since Buddy McGirt has been his trainer, Callum has changed and, undoubtedly, has improved.
"I’ve been saying to Callum all week, if you win, you know you’ll get the comments about his age and some people will try and take the shine off a victory – it happens in all sports – but that comes with the territory and he’s mature enough to understand that. With that said, Callum knows about Berbetiev and how he boxes, so he is fully aware that he needs to be at his best both mentally and physically and we believe that he is."
Callum Johnson knocked Beterbiev down – does that give you confidence for Callum to not only hurt the Russian but also knock him out?
"Yeah, it does, 100%. As I’ve said, we do truly respect Berbetiev’s record and achievement in Boxing – it would mad if we didn’t – but we’re not worried or thinking about what he’s done in the past; we’re laser-focussed on Saturday night. Callum (Smith) has sparred with Callum (Johnson) and while I’m sure they’ll both think they’re a bigger hitter, I genuinely believe – and again, I’m taking the family tie out of this – that Callum (Smith) is a heavier hitter and if Callum Johnson can put Berbetiev on the deck, I know that our Callum certainly can.
"It's going to be so important however, for Callum to keep his belief at every point in the fight, especially if the first few rounds don’t go his way. I’ll be honest and say I think that is a large part of why he was beaten by Canelo Alvarez; I think he felt on the back foot and let it get into his head too much, but hopefully, with that experience, he can put it to good use on Saturday night.
"You’ll know from the first couple of rounds how the fight will turn out. They’re both big hitters and it will be so key for each of them to show no respect in the ring and let the other know they’re there and that they’ve got a fight on their hands. I think this will be an electric fight and I do think it will be over before the end of the sixth round. They’re both massive hitters, so if one lands one early, it could really put the other in trouble."
How much has Callum improved since moving up to 175lbs, and has the experience of fighting Canelo Alvarez made him a better fighter in the ring and also mentally?
"Much like most things in life, you get better with experience and that is the same for Callum in his boxing. I do also think that with the fact he’s naturally so tall, moving up to this weight will help his body. While the weight is a help, it has to be said, and as I’ve been so vocal in saying of late, a lot of credit should go to his coach Buddy McGirt. In any sport, having a coach is so important. We all know about the fact that despite their domination in their sports, people like Roger Federer, who is no doubt a better tennis player than his coach, still had a coach until he retired. The best coaches – as I believe Buddy is – have experience from so many different boxers and other coaches that it is so imperative to listen to what they tell you. No matter how good you are, or whether you believe you’ve mastered your craft, the second you think you don’t need a coach, is the second you’ll start falling apart. Nobody is ever too good for advice from anyone.
"I’ll tell you something, when Callum first joined Buddy, he went over to a gym in LA to meet him and go through a few different sessions from boxing to fitness and everything in between. I phoned Callum after a couple of days and he said to me, “I feel like a beginner”. And when he said it, I know he didn’t mean that he felt vulnerable. I knew that he felt excited that he knew he was going to learn and improve. He made sure he listened and he made sure he took on board all the advice that Buddy was giving him; and I can see the effect it’s had. I spoke to him after a few weeks in and his mentally was totally different. He had more belief and sounded more confident. He was invigorated and that was so good to see and hear."
If Callum wins, is Dmitry Bivol the obvious choice next?
"Look, we all know that putting on these top-tier fights isn’t as easy as just saying ‘he’ will fight ‘him’, but of course, if Callum wins, Bivol would be the next obvious choice. I know it sounds cliché, but at this point, we’re really honestly not thinking that far ahead. We’re just thinking about Saturday and the future will sort itself out when it arrives."
Do you think Callum would rematch Canelo Alvarez at light heavyweight?
"Nothing is off the table for the future, so we won’t rule it out. if it made sense, then of course it’s possible. Callum has a drive, ambition and desire to win all four belts, so if he did win on Saturday, it would be an obvious next step for him."
What does this week look like for Callum and for his team?
"It’s all about trying to strike the perfect balance of getting him hyped up and also keeping him relaxed; too much one of those sides can have negative effects come fight night. Callum is in good spirits. He’s looking forward to fighting. He’s eating well; enjoying plenty of carbs and after the final weigh in, he’ll carb-up even more and is likely to put on another 10lbs or so, which is par for the course at that weight.
"We’ve been chilling out all week. There I so much snow; we’re almost snowed in, which is no bad thing. We’ve been playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo DS, as we always do. We actually let Callum win the game last night as we wanted him to get in the zone of winning and have that extra bit of confidence! I’m not sure if he knows we let him win, but he never wins on Mario Kart, so he must have a suspicion.
"I’ve got to say; Liam and I have a real battle on it. We’re so competitive against each other. The loser buys the coffee or lunch/dinner whenever we play., as the losing forfeit. I hope Liam doesn’t read this, but he’s one of those people who is good at everything he does. It was a right pain growing up, as I’m sure you can imagine! He’s very good at Pool and Darts and even though we know that, he still manages to hustle us every time we play. On the rare occasion someone else wins, we make sure our coffee or lunch order is unnecessarily big!"
And just on Liam, what do his future plans look like?
"It looks very much like he’ll be fighting in April, although we’re just finalising who, what, where and when. He’s in good form in himself, but from my point of view, the sooner he gets back into full training mode the better… only so we might have a chance at winning pool, darts or Mario Kart then!"