THE pride is real. Boxing on Saturday (October 9) in Liverpool, the stakes for Anthony Fowler and Liam Smith are high. Neither man wants to contemplate losing in their hometown. It’s a fight, and a result, that will stay with either man for a long time afterwards.

“This is a dream come true, I’ve always wanted to be the main event in Liverpool and for this to come true is great. I’m under no illusions I’m up against it, Liam is a top, world-class fighter, he’s proven that,” Fowler said. “But I’m 30 years of age, I can’t sit around and wait for these fights that aren’t getting made so I need to roll the dice. I’m confident, I’m at my peak, my best and I’ll be at my best come fight night.”

It’s not the first time he’s tangled with the Smith family at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. In the distant past, when they were both amateur welterweights, Fowler and Callum Smith boxed a bitter three rounds in the GB championships. Callum won that confrontation well but Fowler went on to plot his own course through to the 2016 Olympics and advance as a pro. He has taken one defeat, to Scott Fitzgerald, as he’s tried to break out from domestic level. Now 11 years after his clash with Callum, he fights one of his older brothers, Liam. This is a fight that’s so good, it doesn’t need the garnish of any title belts. Smith has been operating at world level, losing to Jaime Munguía three years ago in Las Vegas and most famously to Canelo Álvarez in Texas in 2017. But he can still beat top fighters. Just in May he seemed to have done enough to defeat Magomed Kurbanov, only to be unfairly denied a decision win in Russia. Smith is 33 years old but, even with a long, hard career behind him, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

“I’ll just show him I’m that little bit of a step ahead and he wasn’t ready for that step up just yet,” Smith insists. “He’s competitive, I think he’s a good fighter for four rounds, but he reverts back to what he does. Once the fight goes past four rounds the fight’s only going one way.”

Just three years younger than Smith, Fowler is still fresher as a professional. His 2019 loss to Fitzgerald was a significant reverse but since then he’s recovered his form. Joining trainer Shane McGuigan, he’s continued his development. His power comes through in heavy straight shots, he backs up jolting jabs with hard crosses and he’s finished 12 of his 15 victories inside the distance.

Smith, however, with more than twice as many fights behind him, has had much more professional experience. That will come into play. He is relaxed, moves his head well and attacks the body with sustained combinations. Their styles should blend in a richly entertaining clash, but Smith is expected to take over in the second half of fight and wear Fowler down en route to taking a clear decision win.

The winner of the main event might well prove themselves the best super-welterweight in the country. But it’s Ted Cheeseman and Troy Williamson who fight for the British 154lbs title on the undercard. Cheeseman keeps on delivering thrillers, battling with James Metcalf earlier this year and Sam Eggington in 2020. Williamson should prove another excellent foil for Cheeseman. A skilled boxer, who is tough and stubborn, his challenge will be matching Ted’s work rate. He has to tighten up his defences or a marauding Cheeseman will break though. The pick is that Cheeseman wins an exciting points decision.

The undercard is stacked. Both Kieron Conway and James Metcalf are coming back from defeats in their last fights. Conway lost to Souleymane Cissokho, in which he hurt the Frenchman but let him off the hook. While Metcalf is coming off a stoppage defeat to Cheeseman. It’s an intriguing match up from the high calibre domestic super-welterweight mix and both men no doubt will be desperate to avoid two consecutive losses. With a home crowd behind him Metcalf will fight with urgency, but if Conway takes advantage of his technical skill he could edge it. Credit though to both for taking such a competitive fight.

Peter McGrail will become the first of the Tokyo Olympians to make their professional debut when he appears in his hometown. From Everton Red Triangle club, he lost a tight opening contest against very good opposition in Japan but he remains one of the most decorated amateur boxers this country has produced. He’s won the European championships, Commonwealth Games and is the only British man to have medalled twice at the World championships. He can start showcasing how his talents will translate to the professional game.

Solomon Dacres is another alumnus of the GB programme. He has a decent opponent for just his third pro bout in Kamil Sokolowski, the Pole who was unfortunate to lose a decision to David Adeleye last time out. It’s an early test for Dacres but one he has the calibre to pass.

Shannon Courtenay, 7-1 (3), who beat Ebanie Bridges last time out, goes in with 6-0-2 American Jamie Mitchell over 10 rounds. This will be the first time Mitchell has boxed someone with a winning record and while she’ll look to walk Courtenay down, the Briton, as long as she resists being drawn in, ought to outbox the visitor.

Liverpool’s Luke Willis, an unbeaten 10-0, steps up into his first scheduled 10-rounder against Rylan Charlton. The latter is capable of springing an upset, he had handed Joe Laws a first defeat prior to being subdued by Florian Marku. Willlis should prevail but don’t expect Charlton to give him an easy night in his hometown.

Blane Hyland continues to rebuild after suffering his first professional loss unexpectedly to Egypt’s Mohamed Salah Abdelghany in Dubai. He’ll feel the pressure but should outclass France’s Santiago San Eusebio.

DAZN broadcast the bill.

The Verdict A sumptuous slate of fights on offer.