Paul Smith on Abraham rematch: “I have it in me to reach another level”
“You got the job.”
Four simple words that get said every day and, for the most part, elicit joy for the recipient. Multiply that euphoric sensation several times over and you might get close to how British super middleweight Paul Smith felt after securing an immediate rematch with WBO titleholder Arthur Abraham on Feb. 21 in Berlin, Germany.
“I’m just so relieved,” said Smith, who dropped a unanimous decision to THE RING No. 2 rated super middleweight in September.
“The first time around I was just overjoyed to get a title shot. I thought I could win and when it was over I knew it was close. Abraham knew it was close and anyone who knows boxing knew it was close. I’m just thankful that Arthur agreed to the rematch because there were easier fights out there for him.”
Smith (35-4, 20 knockouts) has never claimed that he was robbed in the first encounter. The majority of experts had Abraham retaining his title by the narrowest of margins, but it was the official cards which sent shockwaves through world boxing. Two judges gave Smith three rounds and the other only one.
Thirty six 10-9 rounds were scored and Abraham had won 29 of them.
“The scoring was a piss take,” said Smith, who is not known for mixing his words. “It wasn’t eleven rounds to one and it wasn’t nine rounds to three. The system has actually shot itself in the foot here because if Arthur had won that fight by a round, or if it was draw, then I couldn’t have argued and we wouldn’t be talking right now.
“The scoring was actually so bad that that there was an outcry for a rematch.”
Despite the uproar, the WBO, following a request from Matchroom Promotions, would not install Smith as mandatory challenger but all was not lost. Francisco Varcarcel, the organization president, personally praised Smith’s performance and gave the Liverpool man a top-five ranking at 168 pounds.
Smith said, “It would have been better to be mandatory challenger because the fight goes to purse bids, but I earned well last time and I’m earning more this time. You make your money when you become a world champion, so I’m just glad to be in this position and appreciative of a second chance.
“With that said it was intimated at the press conference, by Sauerland Promotion and the German media, that I cried myself into this rematch through Twitter which is unfair. I bit my tongue because Abraham is coming to Liverpool on Thursday (for another press conference) and I’ll set the record straight there. Everyone involved knows why this rematch was made.”
The blue print on how to defeat Abraham was carried out to a tee by Carl Froch and rubber stamped by Andre Ward, in bouts which took place in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
The Germany based Armenian is a teak tough power puncher who uses an exaggeratedly high guard to deflect blows, while continually applying pressure. To keep him honest one requires adept movement, a steady jab, brisk combinations and an ability to control pace. Easier said than done and, although he put forth a tremendous effort, the consensus was that Smith had fallen just short.
What changes in a re-run?
“I can see Abraham being better this time because he knows what I can do,” said Smith, who turned 32 years old following the first encounter. “He knows I can hurt him, he knows I can outbox him and he knows I can push him close. On the flip side I know what I can do, and I know I have it in me to reach another level.
“Abraham might get himself fitter but he’s a lazy fighter at the best of times. He might brush up on his defense and look to block one or two of the shots which worked well against him but I can change my attack. Both of us have room to improve and Joe (Gallagher) will be putting me through my paces in the gym.
“Last time I thought I could win, whereas this time I know I can.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing