Liam Smith takes on Anthony Fowler this Saturday in a battle for Liverpool supremacy. The former world champion has it all to lose at the city’s M & S Bank Arena, as he aims for a future title shot. While Anthony Fowler is giving up the edge in experience, he remains confident that he can negotiate this step-up in class. It’s an intriguing domestic match-up with world title implications, with both men ranked by at least one of the sanctioning bodies. Most importantly of all though, local bragging rights are at stake.
Smith, part of a boxing family that also boasts former 168-pound king Callum, has mixed in elite company. ‘Beefy’ spent nine painful rounds in the ring with pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2016, and has also lost to the unbeaten pair of the dangerous Magomed Kurbanov and former world champion Jaime Munguia. Liam Smith only tends to get beaten by the best, and has the battle-won, world class experience that Anthony Fowler lacks.
Smith also has a world title to his name, the WBO light middleweight championship, which he won when he stopped John Thompson in 2015. ‘Beefy’ made two defences of the championship before losing it to ‘Canelo’, stopping Jimmy Kelly and Predrag Radosevic. Smith has been a fixture in and around world level for a number of years, a level that Anthony Fowler aspires to reach with a win on Saturday.
Fowler won a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth games, and represented Team GB at the 2016 Olympics, losing his first-round fight with Zhanibek Alimkhanuly. ‘The Machine’ was supposed to have a smooth time of things in the pros, but came unstuck in his ninth fight against Scott Fitzgerald. Losing by split decision, Fowler rebounded with a points win over veteran former world title challenger Brian Rose, and has won five fights in moderate company since.
Liam Smith is unlike any fighter Fowler has ever faced before. While the men are only two-and-a-half years different in age, Fowler is far younger than Smith in boxing terms. This is his first fight against a world class opponent at their peak. Fowler is confident though, speaking in Thursday’s press conference he said, “He’s been to the top, he’s been world champion, I haven’t. I’ve had that mad desire since I was a kid, it’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’ve spent 11 years getting to this point, I’m here for a win, I’m not here to just make up the numbers.”
Smith refuses to concede he is overlooking his younger foe, however. ‘Beefy’ told reporters, “Obviously people ask ‘am I on the way out? Is Fowler on the way up?’ but they are reading too much into it. There’s two-and-a-half years difference between us. Fowler’s a 30-year-old fighter who has had 16 fights, he’s never once set the world alight.”
The bout is almost classically poised. Can the seasoned professional who knows the taste of world title victory keep the wolves from the door, with a hungry challenger attempting to knock him off his perch? Will Smith’s experience prove too telling against a fighter who has rarely stepped into deep waters as a professional? This match-up is fascinating because it comes down to what Liam Smith has left, and whether Anthony Fowler has what it takes to step up a level. Add a sprinkling of local rivalry, and pour the mixture into an arena full of both fighters’ nearest and dearest, and you have got the recipe for a sumptuous night of action.
Betfred Odds: Liam Smith 8/13 Anthony Fowler 11/8 Draw 16/1