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Callum Smith had a front row seat to see his brother dismantled by Canelo Alvarez in a bruising light-middleweight title fight in 2016.
Ringside at a raucous AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Smith can recall in particular the accuracy of Alvarez’s punches, the way he maneuvered his big brother, Liam, into a position to drop him on three occasions — the final time with a brutal body shot.
“He finds gaps and holes that you don’t know you’re leaving,” Smith said of the Mexican boxer. “So I knew then, and I know now, how good a fighter he is.”
Four years later, it’s time to take some family revenge.
Smith will compete in the biggest fight of his career on Saturday when he attempts to do what only one man, the great Floyd Mayweather, has achieved — beat Alvarez, a four-division world champion who, for many, is the best pound-for-pound boxer around.
It would go down as one of the most sensational victories in British boxing history, catapulting Smith — an unbeaten 30-year-old fighter from Liverpool — into superstardom.
He would take great satisfaction, too, from taking down a conqueror of one of the siblings from a Smith family steeped in boxing. And it wouldn’t be the first time: In 2018, he knocked out George Groves, who had previously beaten Smith’s oldest brother, Paul, to capture the WBA super-middleweight title.
“I did it with Groves for Paul,” Smith told The Associated Press in a video interview, “hopefully I can do it with Canelo for Liam.
“It does add a little more to it. There’s a little bit of history there and it will be nice to get revenge, but first and foremost I’ve got a job to do and that’s beat Canelo Alvarez. Any other bits are an added bonus.”
Paul, Liam and another brother who is a professional boxer, Stephen, are all making the long journey with Callum to Texas for the fight at the Alamodome in San Antonio. They do everything together — all four have been British title-holders at one point, with Liam and Callum going on to become world champions — and can lean on each other for advice and tips.
And it’s Liam, given his history with Canelo, who has been Callum’s go-to guy in recent weeks.
“I’ve watched every single fight Canelo’s ever had, but it’s a bit different when you get in there with him,” Callum Smith told the AP. “Liam has been in there with him, so he knows little things. Things he probably realized on the night that he didn’t see before.
“We spoke even before this fight was made and we have spoken a lot more since. He is in the gym with me every day so when I’m sparring, Liam’s on the apron as well, watching. He’s always there for advice, shots he feels Canelo may throw against me and shots he feels I may be able to capitalize on against Canelo.”
The fight will be the first for both boxers in more than a year, since Alvarez knocked out Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 and since Smith earned a unanimous decision over John Ryder three weeks later.
The fight was announced by Canelo’s team on Nov. 17, before any contracts had been officially signed and without Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) having had any confirmation. It has given Smith little more than a month to prepare, with restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic making the pre-fight camp even harder.
Smith, who is seven inches taller than Alvarez and will have a clear reach advantage, had to rush to get some sparring partners in, and the ones he got weren’t ideal. He said he hasn’t had much time to “think and research” for a fight against someone he believes rivals Terence Crawford, the WBO welterweight champion, as the pound-for-pound king.
“You ask me has my camp been ideal, but his probably hasn’t been ideal, either,” Smith said. “He probably knew he was fighting me a little longer than I knew I was fighting him but he has had the same year as everyone else. It has been frustrating for all fighters.”
Fighting out of England, and in front of a reduced crowd in Texas, holds no fear for Smith, either. After all, it was in Saudi Arabia where he beat Groves to become a world champion.
“Whether it’s in front of 100,000 fans or 10,000 or 10, my goal is to go out there and win,” Smith said. “It would be nice to do it in front of a full capacity and a load of traveling fans, but that’s the times we are in. You have to just take what you’re given.”