Tuesday, October 03, 2023  |


Smith inspired by Clinton Woods and Fernando Vargas ahead of Maxwell contest

Dalton Smith working out as he prepares for a fight. 3 August 2022 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing
Fighters Network

Super-lightweight prospect Dalton Smith does not need to look far for inspiration.

The Sheffield fighter is following a rich tradition of skilled boxers from his city who have won domestic titles – he currently has British and Commonwealth honours – including the likes of Herol Graham, Junior Witter, Johnny Nelson and countless others

“When I was young it was Prince Naseem, more recently it was Kell Brook,” said Smith. “But I used to like Clinton Woods. I’d been to the Arena plenty of times for Clinton Woods and he’s one who stands out for me, when I was growing up.”

Woods was the IBF light-heavyweight champ and fought the best of his era, including Roy Jones, Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Rico Hoye, Julio Gonzalez and Tavoris Cloud in his 48-fight career. The Sheffield veteran was linked to a huge showdown with Joe Calzaghe, but it never materialised and he retired with 42 wins against five losses and a draw. He could punch, with 25 stoppages, and in the UK he fought some of his best countrymen, including David Starie, Crawford Ashley and Mark Baker, and fundamentally Woods was extremely sound. He also had a big-fight temperament.

A pretty much prime Roy Jones was too good, but Woods and Johnson had three rough battles, Woods beat Hoye and Gonzalez (twice), had a chaotic camp before fighting Tarver in Florida and retired after losing to the then unbeaten and in-form Cloud.

“Of course, when you think of what he achieved, sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” Smith said of Woods. “For me, it was the memories of going to the [Sheffield] Arena, the band playing, and I’d always go in and the drums were playing and they were chanting his [Woods’s] name, and they the memories what stick with you as you grow up.”

Woods was never part of the famed Ingle stable, but whether this is why his career somehow went under the radar or not, Smith is not sure because he clearly appreciated Woods.

“Sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves and he doesn’t get mentioned as much and he deserves, or the credit for what he achieved because he boxed the best,” Smith said.

This weekend, Smith headlines in the Sheffield Arena, his second fight in the venue, against Sam Maxwell. Smith is 14-0 with 10 stoppages and is viewed as one of the hottest prospects in UK boxing.

Smith wrapped up some of his camp in Manny Robles’s Los Angeles gym, where he sparred Vergil Ortiz. Smith also told Manny that one of his favourite fighters was Fernando Vargas, so Robles called him up so they could talk. Smith is a fan of wars. He admires Juan Manuel Marquez, Saul Alvarez and Arturo Gatti, and Vargas obviously had his fair shares of epics.

“I was on FaceTime recently with Fernando Vargas, and he was one of my idols growing up, and I used to love that aggressive counterpunching style, so there was not better way to go and spend time at Manny’s gym,” Smith continued. “There are plenty of guys out there with that sort of style.”

Smith has not had to box in those sorts of trenches yet, but he says he is ready for that kind of physical and mental test. He is trained by his father, Grant, one of the most unheralded coaches in the sport, out of the Steel City Gym. Smith knows those kind of fights can take it out of you, but he also knows what they do for a warrior’s legacy.

“You always think, ‘I want to be in one of those fights one day,’ but it’s not smart is it,” the 26-year-old admitted. “Boxing is about hitting and not getting hit. But as you get older you get wiser but if I’m in one of those fights down the line, it would be good to look back on and tell the stories, yeah.”

Despite the gym’s success, Grant is happy for Dalton to travel to pick up bits, sparring in other countries and learning from the likes of Robles. It is likely Smith will be back in the US before long, if all goes well against Maxwell on Saturday.

“Definitely,” Smith added. “I’d still love to go and spend more time in America and get more sparring, I’m still picking new things up. I’m only 26, so I’ve got plenty of time in the sport and I’ve always said, ‘Once I’m at the top I want to stay there.’ I’m moving at a pretty fast rate, but that just shows the level I’m at at the minute. I’m nowhere near my prime yet.”

One fighter near his prime is Smith’s stablemate, Sunny Edwards, the IBF flyweight champion. Edwards has recently signed to fight Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez in a cracking flyweight clash, and seeing the attention around that announcement, and with Sunny a training partner, Smith – a decorated international amateur – knows he could one day be where Sunny is.

“Exactly,” Smith smiled. “I’m sat here thinking now, I could be 18 months away from fighting for world honours and it’s crazy. It’s crazy how fast time goes and you’ve got to make sure you’re doing everything right and not cutting any corners. It [the life of a fighter] is tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I’m not in camp and not in my routine, I think most fighters say they go a little bit insane, because the routine keeps you structured. So when I’m in camp, I’m waking up at the right time, taking my vitamins, sleeping good, and that’s what keeps us mentally sane. Of course, it’s not easy. Nothing at a high level is easy, it’s the one per cent who reach the top, but I’ve done it all my life and I don’t know anything different and I wouldn’t change it.”