By Elliot Worsell


ONE moment you couldn’t get his voice out of your head – a sort of headmasterly, super serious and overly enthusiastic growl – and the next you couldn’t figure out where on earth it had gone. Worse, you came to realise in the silence, one filled by other voices lacking the same insight and authority, that Adam Smith’s voice was a voice the sport sorely missed.

In fact, it’s fair to say that in his absence – one unexplained until we later discovered he had bravely battled (and beaten) cancer – we all started to understand Smith a little better. We understood not only what a difficult job he must have had balancing objectivity with positivity as the face of Sky Sports, but also that things like insight and authority, both of which Smith had in spades, are not easily found, bought, or interchangeable with social media clout or followers.

After all, with Smith away, there was suddenly a void. Gone overnight was the face and the voice we associated with so many big boxing nights and gone as well was all the history and education behind that often-parodied growl. With it removed from Sky Sports boxing events for the foreseeable future we were forced to accept how easy Smith had made commentary look and how striking a balance between a deep knowledge of the sport and an ability to convey excitement is not a skill everyone in boxing happens to possess.

Indeed, with attention spans shortening and education lacking, it appears enough for some broadcasters to just stick anyone behind a mic these days so long as they bring the requisite audience or image to proceedings and, crucially, say the right things. This has become apparent on various platforms of late and each time it produces not only a sinking feeling but a very real desire to either hit the mute button or watch something else until the punching starts.

With Smith, however, regardless of your opinion on his delivery, never was there any sense he was out of place or present at a boxing event for reasons other than him being very good at his job. He had paid his dues, in other words. He had gained the respect of the boxing community by virtue of being a part of the furniture; its very soundtrack. Moreover, whereas some people can spend years in the sport but never humble themselves enough to actually learn anything from the experience, one always got the sense with Smith that his gratitude and humility were the very things which led to him (a) belonging and (b) learning as much as he could.

Adam Smith (Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Still, seasons change, time passes, and there was always going to one day be a freshening up in boxing. There would be new ways of doing things, for example; new faces to see and new voices to hear. There would also be new ways of presenting the action to fans, both the ones in the arena and the ones watching on television or via tablets or phones at home. This is all part of the sport’s evolution and to romanticise the work of the so-called old guard is not an attempt to defy this evolution or even suggest the new is in any way inferior to the old.

It is just different, that’s all. There is still much to admire about the way the likes of Sky Sports, TNT Sports and DAZN present their boxing coverage and there is still hope that enough boxing people remain connected to these platforms to ensure their fight-night product is something worth watching with the sound on. (Case in point: other commentators, like the two Andys at Sky, Clarke and Scott, are proper boxing people whose insight and professionalism is largely comforting and whose presence is merit-based.)

Without such people boxing is forever liable to misbehave and become prone to disobedience. Its open-door policy lends itself to being exploited by dilettantes and blaggers and the relative simplicity of it – two people punching each other – eases the arrival of phonies quite unlike any other sport. In boxing, you soon learn the basics and tweet a bit and that’s apparently enough; particularly, it seems, if the aim of the fight-night broadcast is not to educate or offer insight but to simply push an agenda or promote on the promoter’s behalf. Let’s face it: anybody with eyes, an ego and the need for money can do that.

The good news anyway is that Adam Smith is back. He is back on his feet, most importantly, and he is also back commentating on boxing, which is something he did for the first time on Friday night (February 9) in Sheffield. Whether he continues, and whether he ends up in a role similar to the one he previously held at Sky Sports, remains to be seen, but Smith’s return, if nothing else, feels a bit like the parents coming home after a long weekend they were reluctant to take for fear of the fallout. In his stead, and as feared, the kids have been royally acting up, getting drunk and urinating all over the carpet, and now it is left to Smith and the like to clear up and restore some order. It is far from his responsibility, I must stress, and I wouldn’t encourage him to bother, but doubtless, because of the boxing man he is, Adam Smith will care enough to try.