Callum Smith: John Ryder awaits as expectations and responsibilities mount
|Callum Smith v John Ryder|
|Date: 23 November Venue: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live-text commentary on BBC Sport website|
Unify world titles. Fight at Anfield. Box in Las Vegas.
Callum Smith has a boxing bucket list but fatherhood has tightened the timeframe for his dreams to be fulfilled.
Chasing them is not without pressure. Home-grown fighters like Anthony Crolla, Tony Bellew and George Groves are on the list of those recently retired, so there is added expectation for Smith to fill the void.
As he prepares to face fellow Briton John Ryder in Liverpool on Saturday, Smith explains how he wonders if he will ever be "satisfied" in boxing and how he hopes to one day show his daughter, Alba, the photographs of his realised dreams.
Dad duties shape retirement plan
Watching Smith train, he is the epitome of focus. And it is paying off.
His last display - when he ruthlessly defended his belt on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's Madison Square Garden defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr - was described as "punch perfect" by BBC Radio 5 Live's Steve Bunce.
"I was the man of the moment for 20 minutes and then Ruiz stole all the headlines," jokes Smith.
Media swarmed into Smith's post-fight news conference that night in sheer panic after Joshua had been stunned some 100ft away in the arena.
Cameras were hastily being thrown up, a sense of chaos filled the room. Amid it all, Smith sat fuss-free, seemingly keen to wrap things up so he could get home to six-month-old Alba.
As we speak five months later, the death of American fighter Patrick Day has just hit the sport.
"Even before my girl came along my plan was to get in, earn as much as I can, achieve as much as I can and get out early," 29-year-old Smith explains.
"If I am still fighting at 35 I will be disappointed. My girl has just made that more of a goal. I managed to become a world champion, now I think over the next few years I can see how good I really am, get the massive fights, fulfil my potential and get out.
"I have seen one too many fighters stay in that bit too long."
Anfield, Las Vegas and no satisfaction
Liverpudlian Smith, the youngest of four boxing brothers to all hold or contest world titles, beat Groves 14 months ago to take the WBA belt at 168lbs.
Now there is talk of facing one of the division's other three champions, hopes of a bout at the home of his beloved Liverpool Football Club and even calls for him to face a man who once beat his brother Liam - the sport's best-paid fighter Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.
"When I won the world title, I am not going to lie, it was an unbelievable feeling," he adds. "It was like a weight off my shoulders, a goal I'd set myself for so long and one others had talked about. When I got there I realised how I am never satisfied and how I always want more.
"I don't know if I will ever be satisfied but I will keep going until hopefully I am. Now it's about ticking boxes. Unify titles, box at Anfield and I'd love to fight in Vegas.
"If I knew a bout with the three other champions could be made next I would take it. They are the fights that motivate me, the ones with fear factor where I know if I don't turn up I will lose."
Brotherly knowhow and no regrets
Smith refuses to trash talk in a business rife with harsh words. As we talk, we draw comparisons between him and Irish trailblazer Katie Taylor, another fighter obsessed with the sport and uninterested in engaging with its attached circus.
Taylor has not yet defended her world titles in her homeland. Smith, though, gets what he says is a chance to say "thank you" to the people of Liverpool, as he fights in his city for the first time as a world champion on Saturday.
He picks up weights to shadow box at the end of his training session without being told to do so by trainer Joe Gallagher. He knows he must respect Londoner Ryder, a man who has found four stoppage wins in a row to become the WBA's mandatory challenger.
|World champions at super-middleweight|
|WBA: Callum Smith (UK) WBC: David Benavidez (US); IBF: Caleb Plant (US); WBO: Billy Joe Saunders (UK)|
"I've been in his position and I know the little bit more desire and push you have in each session," says Smith. "I have to expect a better version of him than we have seen before and I am fully prepared for that. I just think the best version of me beats any version of him and beats any super middleweight in the world.
"I am in the form of my career and I believe he is in for a tough night."
In speaking to Smith, the knowhow he has gained from watching brothers Stephen, Paul and Liam on big fight nights is obvious.
He is visibly self-assured and his T-shirt - clinging to him because of the sweat - is emblazoned with the caption: "Erase history, write records."
It is the kind of defiant, driven mantra you feel runs through him.
"When I am retired I will know how good I was," he says. "I will not have any regrets and ask questions of myself. I will know I fully fulfilled my potential, which I believe I am on the way to doing."