Exclusive: ‘Swifty’ Smith talks Pedraza title bout, potential fights with Vargas, Selby or Walsh

PBC / Lawrence Lustig

Liverpool’s Stephen Smith is relieved to finally have the date of his world title contest confirmed and is excited by what fights a victory could eventually lead to.

After being named mandatory challenger, ‘Swifty’ (23-1, 13 KO) will take on unbeaten Puerto Rican Jose Pedraza for the IBF world title on April 16 at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

The super-featherweight is hoping to join his brother Liam, a light welterweight, as world champion, while youngest brother Callum will also be eyeing world honours for later in the year.

“I’m over the moon to finally have the fight confirmed and it’s great that the fans and myself now know the situation,” Smith exclusively told World Boxing News. “It’s going to be a tough challenge against Pedraza but if I can be myself and make it my fight, then I can win comfortably. I have watched him a lot and he has a lot of confidence, but he has plenty of faults as well and they can and will be capitalised on.

“It’s great to be fighting in the USA and it’s where you need to be if you want to make a name for yourself in the sport – it is the home of boxing after all. I’ve fought stateside and travelled the world in the amateurs so it doesn’t really bother me too much going over there. It only makes it more exciting.

“I don’t want to just have one fight across the Atlantic and then that be it. Once I become champion, I would like to have a defence in Liverpool, but then look for the big fights and unifications in the USA.

Although fairly quiet on the domestic scene, the 130lb division Is coming to life on the world scene with Japan’s Takashi Uchiyama, Francisco Vargas, Roman Martinez and Javier Fortuna leading the way.

“It’s definitely an exciting division with some very good names and I want to now make my own mark. Uchiyama looks like the best of the bunch at the minute, but he seems unwilling to come out of Japan,” Smith said.

“The Vargas vs Salido fight should be a cracker. Neither man will go on the back foot and they will simply meet head on and have a war. I had the chance to fight Vargas in a WBC final eliminator, but I chose to go the IBF route, mainly because the Vargas fight is a world title one on its own.

“I was proven right because he is now champion and I would love to face him in a unification if I too became champion. The Vargas fight is the one I would like, but I would happily face Roman Martinez as well – that is a very winnable fight.”

In the wake of the Carl Frampton vs Scott Quigg domestic blockbuster, Smith admits that he too would love a British rival and dance partner.

“All-British fights seem to sell well and people instantly get interested. You look at Froch and Groves and it is not always the two best at the weight, but they can still build up a huge event,” ‘Swifty’ continued.

“Lee Selby has a win over me, so that rematch will always be built up and if we are both IBF champions, people will start to talk about that fight again. But I have to focus on my own weight class and Liam Walsh is the biggest domestic clash out there.

“Walsh is highly ranked, unbeaten and will probably go down the WBO route – I can see him beating Martinez too. If we both get titles, that could be a huge unification down the line and would be very beneficial for both our profiles. Although he is with Frank Warren, you’re seeing more and more fights being made between Hearn and Warren, so that shouldn’t be a problem,” Smith added.

Another British super-featherweight who is now on the fringes of a world title is Mitchell Smith’s conqueror George Jupp – who will face Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt for the WBO interim belt this weekend.

“It’s a massive opportunity for Jupp and good credit to him for taking the fight – it shows that he must be in good shape and living a proper lifestyle. I haven’t seen too much of Berchelt, but he looks like a big puncher. Jupp himself is not the biggest of punchers, but if he can stay out of trouble, it will be interesting to see how he does. He will be a massive underdog and I wish him all the luck in the world and hope he succeeds.

Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123