MAKE no mistake, Liam Smith has been plucked from comparative obscurity to ease Saul “Canelo” Alvarez into another world belt and out of Gennady Golovkin’s clutches. Across the pond, fans are less than happy, including the flame-haired fighter’s Mexican faithful, with the choice of the Englishman as his September 17 opponent.

It should have been “GGG” in the opposite corner in the kind of all-conquering superfight yet to be seen this year. But it would seem Alvarez is not ready, despite promises to the contrary in the immediate aftermath of his May victory over Amir Khan. “Golovkin better answer his phone tomorrow,” Golden Boy Promotions head Oscar De La Hoya yapped repeatedly at the extraordinarily long post-fight press conference. Even then, it felt like an empty statement designed to appease the agitated media.

Ultimately his team are unwilling to take on “GGG” for the time being, the modern day fear of defeat and the potential damage to long-term earning power, surely the underlying reason. They should not be blamed for wanting to give their fighter the best possible chance of victory should that showdown ever occur, but hoodwinking the public into believing it was a realistic possibility at this juncture is hard to forgive. Never in a million years would Golovkin come down to the alien catchweight of 155lbs and nor should he. At least Alvarez has done the right thing now, and stopped pretending to be a middleweight until he’s truly ready to compete at 160lbs.

So here we are, Alvarez is to drop a division (but only one pound) to take on Liam Smith,
a man without fear of testing himself at the highest level. Like Kell Brook, who steps up to face Golovkin, we have an unbeaten fighter eager to fight the best. Some might say it would be justice if Smith and Brook were to stun their illustrious counterparts and ruin the highly lucrative but increasingly frustrating showdown altogether.

But Smith is very much the outsider here. Defeat is already presumed. People who say he has nothing to lose forget about the title he brings, his good health and the unbeaten career he has built. In boxing, there is never nothing to lose. Smith goes into this as champion, but it’s his rival who is being treated as king. His name and image take prominence on the posters, even though he is the challenger. And this week it was confirmed it takes place in Dallas, in the occasionally crooked state of Texas, after Smith’s team originally campaigned for the more neutral Las Vegas. It would not be a surprise if the champion was made to enter the ring first, and if the fight is close, it’s hard to see the judges favouring “Beefy”.

The mountain ahead of him is a daunting one, and full credit to him for daring to conquer it.

This article was originally published in Boxing News magazine