Callum Smith and Katie Taylor are in huge fights for the future of their careers at the top of the sport this weekend.
On the stacked undercard of Anthony Joshua’s U.S. debut, undefeated WBA Super Middleweight World Champion Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) will make his first title defense against former Middleweight World Champion Hassan N’Dam (37-3, 21 KOs).
Earlier in the evening, Taylor (13-0, 6 KOs) will face Delfine Persoon (43-1, 18 KOs) to crown the undisputed World Female Lightweight Champion.
Taylor owns the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, while Persoon holds the WBC strap.
Here’s what Smith and Taylor both had to say:
On being distracted by a possible Canelo fight: “The fact is, with Canelo, is that if I slip up on Saturday night, that fight doesn’t happen. That’s gone. So that’s what keeps me motivated – that I have to come here this Saturday and win to keep those massive fights alive. I’m fully focused on June 1st. I’m in a very good place and I had a great training camp.”
On fighting at Madison Square Garden: “This is another amazing moment and that’s what I am in boxing for. I want big nights and big fights. Winning the WBSS tournament was a special night and defending that title at Madison Square Garden would be special as well. That is what is keeping me in boxing, that stuff excites me and motivates me.”
On fighting Hassan N’Dam: “He is a good opponent, a very experienced opponent and a former World Champion. Only the very best have beat him. But I believe that I am one of the very best and I should be good enough to beat him. This is no easy fight because he is a tough customer. I am expecting a tough fight and prepared for the best possible Hassan N’Dam. But if the best version of me turns up, I beat any version of him.”
On being the standout on Saturday’s card: “Hopefully. I hope to steal some headlines and impress with a good knockout or impressive win. But it’s a very good show, some of Britain’s best on the bill. Katie Taylor is on the show and is a special talent fighting for the undisputed lightweight crown. Josh Kelly and Josh Buatsi are both great prospects. It’s a great show for the fight fans.”
On whether he will stay at 168: “I believe I can do both, I can stay here or move up. I believe I can stay at 168 and fight some good champions and hopefully wait for the Canelo fight. Then when I’ve fully satisfied, I can move up to 175. That’s definitely a possibility but there’s still a lot to achieve at 168. 175 is an interesting division because they are all pretty much as good as each other and there are no standouts. It’s a very good division and one that I could look to enter in a year or two. But 168 is my division right now.”
On fighting for the undisputed lightweight crown: “It is amazing to be here. I’ve had to pinch myself that I am fighting for the undisputed championship of the world in just a few days. I know how big of a challenge it is and how tough of an opponent she is. This is why I have trained so hard over these past few years. I have locked myself away over these last few months and went through the trenches to prepare.”
On taking the open workout seriously: “I figure that I should get something out of it if I am here. Just looking at the big crowd here, you can’t help but get excited about this big fight night. I am just hyped up right now.”
On feeling pressure: “There’s a little bit of pressure but pressure is a privilege. It’s just great to be in this position and I would rather be in this position than not. I am going to fight for the undisputed championship in front of so many Irish people but I have dealt with this kind of pressure before.”
On her rise to this spot: “My goal has always been to become the undisputed champion of the world. This isn’t going to be an easy fight, this is going to be the hardest fight of my career. This is a tough, tough challenge, but these are the types of fights that I love as well.”