Trainer Joe Gallagher is backing Stephen Smith to put the hurt of losing his first world title shot behind him when the super-featherweight gets a swift second chance next month.
Smith bounced back from losing to Jose Pedraza in April for the IBF title just six weeks on against Daniel Brizuela, picking up the vacant WBC Silver belt and cementing his against another of the current champions.
Coming sooner than most expected, Smith heads to Monte Carlo on November 12 to battle hard-hitting WBA ruler Jason Sosa on a massive bill at Salle des Étoiles in the Principality of Monaco.
As Gallagher explained, Smith wanted to get right back in at the top level following the Stateside Pedraza disappointment as the 31 year-old bids to follow younger brother Liam in claiming world honours.
“It’s two world title opportunities in the space of one year and I’m really, really pleased for Stephen,” Gallagher exclusively told World Boxing News.
“When he lost to Pedraza, I wanted Stephen out again straight away and to not just sit and dwell on the loss. He needed to get back out and get the win to keep his rating activated. Winning the WBC Silver belt did that and now Eddie Hearn has done a great job delivering another world title opportunity for Steven in Monte Carlo.
“Sosa is a good fighter and he can’t half whack with plenty of power. It’s a second bite of the cherry for Steven but he’s delighted, I am happy and he’s got to go out there and give it his best shot.”
Asked if he thought another warm-up may have been the ideal scenario leading up to the fight,” Gallagher replied: “No I think that the Brizuela fight, plus him being in with Pedraza and pushing him close was enough. Stephen is a bit like Liam at the moment as they’ve both got itchy knuckles and want to get back on that big stage. They want to be fighting against the best and as amateurs that’s what they did they were fighting the best week in week out as part of Team GB.
“Stephen’s had that fight against Brizuela now it’s the big fight. Liam’s very much the same as well he wants to get straight into a big fight himself.”
Smith managed to pick himself up off the floor against Pedraza in their Connecticut encounter before missing out via a unanimous decision and Gallagher has no worries about any lasting mental scars from the defeat.
“He gave it the best that he could do, but Pedraza is a very good fighter and Stephen knew that. Stephen was aware he was in with a world class fighter and sometimes you just have to put your hands up. There are fine lines between winning and losing at that level.
“The fight was close after eight, maybe a draw, but I think just switching off for that split second and getting caught, plus the knockdown cost him the fight really as Pedraza then went on and won the next couple of rounds.
“Stephen tried to pull it back but it just shows that you have to be switched on every minute of every round at the higher stage and there’s no room to do that here. Lessons are learned and he will be a better fighter from going through that experience.”
Despite the fight being outside the UK once again, Gallagher is happy to travel the relatively short distance to the southern tip of France where Stephen shares a huge card with some top British talent.
“It’s Monte Carlo and it’s not that far away. It’s a case of Sosa traveling more than Stephen too. Monte Carlo is a great place it will be a great show. Martin Murray is on it, Luis Ortiz and Jamie McDonald, so it’s not like you all feel like you’re the away fighter as there will be plenty of Brits there cheering each other on.
“Stephen knows the task that’s waiting for him. Pedraza was a very skilled fighter and Sosa, if you look at his early career, he’s very heavy handed. He’s a big puncher and his record suggests that been in with big kids and has improved on his boxing ability.
“After the Pedraza fight, Stephen knows he can’t switch off because Sosa has the power in either hand to trouble him. But Stephen smith has got a great boxing brain, a great amateur pedigree and he’s got to use this in the fight.
“Sosa will look at the Pedraza fight and look at Steven being hurt, probably thinking he’ll only have to connect once or twice to get the job done so we can’t be giving Sosa those one or two opportunities to land flush. We’ve got to be switched on, and when you’re fighting at this level you have got to box out of your skin to win these world titles.
“It’s unfortunate really that Stephen is in one of the hot divsions in world boxing as super featherweight is brimming with talent, of which Stephen is one and will prove again on the night.”