Stephen Smith returns to action this Saturday night after an eight month lay-off, and his trainer Joe Gallagher hopes it will be his last fight before challenging for the WBC World super-featherweight title.
Smith, 29, returns on the ‘Unbreakable’ bill at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena in a six-round contest against Poland’s Jacek Wylezol. On a night that will be headlined by Kell Brook’s first IBF world welterweight title defence, Smith 20-1 (12 KOs) will be relieved to return to action after a disrupted second half of 2014 which included an illness that kept him off the undercard of the Tony Bellew-Nathan Cleverly rematch last November.
“It was a disappointing end to the year after winning the WBC [Silver] belt and not being out in Germany in September [on the Arthur Abraham-Paul Smith undercard] or Liverpool,” Gallagher told WBN.
“He’s been in the gym since the beginning of this year. He’s been really good, sensational in sparring and he’s got the bit between his teeth.”
Whilst Saturday’s contest will be all about shaking the rust off for ‘Swifty’, another win – regardless of how – will take the WBC number 2 rated contender ever closer to that first world title shot. Victory this weekend will allow Smith to watch the May 1 clash between reigning WBC champion Takashi Miura and challenger, Billy Dib in Tokyo, hoping to grab a fight with the winner.
“I think this will be his [Smith’s] last fight before a world title, Stephen really needs that world title fight now,” expressed Gallagher.
“We’ll travel to fight whoever wins it. Miura in Japan or Dib in Australia, we’ll go wherever the title is. Hopefully [promoter] Eddie Hearn can bring the winner over here for home advantage. Either way we’re very confident of Stephen Smith winning the title.
“I know Miura really well. Watched and studied him for a couple of years now. We seriously believe Stephen Smith can beat Miura, we just need the opportunity to prove that.”
Shaun Brown is WBN’s Chief Writer, follow Shaun on Twitter @sbrown2pt0