THERE is always an opponent reasonably early in a hot prospect’s career that is meant to show, one way or the other, exactly where they are headed.
For Dalton Smith, it appears as though the experienced and only once-beaten Sam Maxwell on Saturday night could well be his.
Smith is 14-0 with 10 quick and has been, at various points, described as Britain’s very best young fighter. However, having gone the 12-round distance in his last two outings against sizeable underdogs, some have started to question whether or not “Thunder” is the real deal or not.
Billy Allington, who was 10-1-4 with zero knockouts when they boxed in February, managed to hang tough for the entirety of his unlikely challenge for Smith’s British title. As such, some questions marks have begun to form around the Sheffield man.
But the beauty of boxing is that one big performance here could well draw a line under all of that and set him back on his rapid ascent toward the top. A victory, and third successful defence of his British title, would also mean he keeps the belt outright.
Maxwell, meanwhile, will be vying to win back the belt he vacated last year in order to pursue a different route. That route, however, ended abruptly in defeat at the hands of Alejandro Meneses inside nine rounds at the Echo Arena in April 2022, after he was dropped twice.
The 34-year-old got back on the bike 10 months later with a six-round victory over Shaun Cooper, which effectively set up this shot at his old belt – and what would be the biggest win of his career – in this DAZN headliner.
“Everyone knows my experience and what I’ve done in the game,” Maxwell said. “The way Dalton has been going, he has been getting stepped up, stepped up. So this is the equation now. We will see how good Dalton really is.
“It was hard taking the loss but I’ve regrouped and come back stronger and now it’s about showing everyone that on fight night.”
Smith has admitted he has struggled for motivation in fights against lesser opponents but says Maxwell will bring the best out of him. If that is true, Maxwell will not be able to live with the power, accuracy and punch variety from Smith. The champion should win on points.
“I’m very confident I can get anybody out of there inside the distance,” Smith said. “But I prepare for 12 rounds. How my career has gone, I’ve basically wiped everyone out, so I needed rounds. In my last two fights I’ve got that.
“Believe me, this is a fight where you will see the best of Dalton Smith. This is the best camp I’ve ever had; I’ve left no stone unturned.”
Before that, there is a trio of 10-rounders on the undercard. Hopey Price, still only 23, is in an interesting clash with James Beech Jr, who has emerged as a bit of a gatekeeper over the past couple of years.
He lost to Brad Foster and Chris Bourke on points in back-to-back fights and has since been stopped by Dennis McCann and Nathaniel Collins. This is his first outing since the Collins loss, in what was a challenge for the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles, in March. As such, Price is the favourite here and his performance will be a decent yardstick in terms of figuring out his position in Britain right now. Price by decision is the obvious pick.
Pat McCormack, however, is unlikely to require all 10 rounds to beat Tony Dixon at welterweight. The 28-year-old from Sunderland is back for the first time since stopping Dario Socci in eight rounds on March 18 and another stoppage win looks likely here.
Dixon is not a bad opponent for this stage but he was dropped and stopped by Mirko Natalizi eight months ago, the second inside-distance defeat of his career, and McCormack seems to be getting better with every fight. He won’t have it all his own way but should be able to break down the man from Mountain Ash and claim a stoppage in the second half of the fight.
Somebody’s 0 has got to go in what looks certain to be an entertaining scrap for the English title between Hull’s Lewis Sylvester and Hartlepool’s Adam Cope. It was way back in 2017 when Cope made his professional debut but the brother of fellow pros Luke, Daniel and Peter did not box again until November 2021.
He is now 7-0 (1) and starts as the underdog against the switch-hitting Sylvester, who is 11-0 (3). With a combined total of just four stoppages out of their 18 wins, this looks highly likely to go the 10-round distance and Sylvester has the style which may cause Cope enough problems to secure the victory.
The 2019 world amateur champion Beatriz Ferreira, who signed a long-term promotional deal when turning professional with Matchroom last year, makes her first appearance on British soil when she takes on Karla Ramos Zamora over eight twos. Ferreira is 2-0 (1) and has a fan-friendly style which should make for entertainment against her 10-9-1 opponent. This may be the first time ever that a woman from Brazil has boxed a woman from Mexico in Sheffield. Ferreira will win and a stoppage is likely.
There is also a step-up fight for highly-rated Rotherham southpaw Junaid Boston, 5-0 (5). After surging to that perfect record with very little trouble, he takes on 10-0-1 (1) Midlands Area champion Ryan Amos over eight rounds. There are high hopes for Boston and he should win but Amos will make him work for it.
Another undefeated Yorkshireman, Cory O’Regan, is also in action as he takes on 14-48-3 (1) journeyman Jordan Ellison over six, while Mansfield’s 3-0-1 Nico Leivars faces the first undefeated opponent of his career in Alberto Motos, the 4-0 Spaniard.