Liam Smith has extra motivation to regain the world title against Sadam Ali with the knowledge a host of Americans are queueing up for unification clashes and domestic rivals Kell Brook and Amir Khan have joined the division.
Smith (26-1-1-KO14) takes on Ali (26-1-KO14) in Verona, New York on May 12 in an attempt to recapture the WBO world light-middleweight crown he lost to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in September 2016.
With the other belts at 154lbs held by Jarrett Hurd, Jermell Charlo and Erislandy Lara, ‘Beefy’ Smith is adamant he’s the man to break the US monopoly and open up a host of options – including unifications and lucrative defences.
Smith said: “I’m fully focused on Ali but three of the champions have already mentioned my name. Hurd has already says he wants to come to the UK to fight me and Charlo and Lara both sent me messages too. I’m not even champion yet!
“All I’m thinking about is Ali because he’s a very good fighter – an Olympian with a lot of skill. I know that beating him will put me in prime position for some massive fights but just regaining my belt is enough motivation.
“I lost this title nearly two years ago and then I put in a bad performance against Liam Williams in the first fight. I righted the wrongs in the rematch but everyone knows even that isn’t the best Liam Smith.
“I’ve lost one fight and it was to one of the very best fighters in the world.”
Ali won the belt back in December with a shock victory over the legendary Miguel Cotto.
While Smith credits the current champion with a slick style, he’s quick to highlight the shortcomings exposed by welterweight Jessie Vargas, who stopped Ali two years ago.
Smith added: “Ali is very good and a former Olympian but if he can be hurt and stopped at welterweight, he can be hurt and stopped at light-middleweight.
“He got Cotto at the right time. All his birthdays and all his Christmases came on that one night because there’s no way Ali would have beaten a Cotto who was even at 75%.
“Ali has only had that one fight at light-middle and although I’m not saying I’m the biggest puncher in the world, I punch hard enough and I’m confident of holding my own early on before breaking him up in the second half of the fight.”