Liam Smith Defends His WBO Title on Saturday. Is Canelo Next?

Liam Smith – Liverpool is identified in certain books as the “World Capital City of Pop.” The reference is to the musical groups that popularized the so-called Merseybeat sound. Nowadays, the pop coming out of Liverpool is the sound made by the fists of her colony of boxers. A mere six days after the biggest boxing show in the history of the 800-year-old port city, Liverpool is again the setting for an important prizefight. And once again, a local boxer tops the marquee.

The big show on May 29 at the Everton football grounds saw a mild upset in the featured bout when cruiserweight Tony Bellew came off the deck to KO his French Congolese opponent, Ilunga Makabu. It’s unlikely that the main go on Saturday’s card at the Echo Arena will yield another upset. Liverpool’s ever-improving Liam Smith (22-0-1, 12 KOs) is an overwhelming favorite to emerge victorious in the second defense of his WBO 154-pound title. Indeed, his match with Montenegro’s Predrag Radosevic (30-1, 11) has been overshadowed by speculation about who Smith is going to fight next with Canelo Alvarez the name most often bandied about.

Liam Smith is the second-youngest of the four fighting Smith brothers and the only one to win a world title. His older siblings Paul and Stephen had their chances but came up short. Paul Smith was outclassed by Andre Ward who stopped the oldest Smith brother in the ninth round on Ward’s home turf in Oakland. Stephen Smith was outpointed by IBF World super featherweight champion Jose Pedraza when they clashed this past April at Foxwoods in Connecticut.

Liam Smith’s opponent Predrag Radosevic lacks a big punch and isn’t accustomed to traveling this far west. In his lone defeat, he was stopped in four rounds by veteran Felix Sturm. For encouragement he can look to the example of countryman Dejan Zlaticanin who went into Glasgow in 2014 and upset hometown hero Ricky Burns, the current WBA 140-pound champion. It was noted that boxers of good repute were historically scarce in Montenegro, but no one told Zlaticanin and now Radosevic hopes to emulate him.

The main supporting bout is a 12-round contest in the super flyweight division between England’s Paul Butler (21-1, 12 KOs) and Thailand’s Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-7-1, 30 KOs). Butler has won three straight since being stopped by Zolani Tete in the first defense of his IBF World 115-pound title. Kotkiegym, who has fought exclusively in Asia, has made steady strides after winning only four of his first 10 pro fights.

Zolani Tete, who relinquished his title to compete in a higher weight class, is also on the card. Tete (23-3, 19 KOs) opposes Tijuana’s Victor Ruiz (21-5, 15 KOs) in a battle of southpaws. The match is scheduled for 12 rounds.

In another undercard bout of note, Liverpool’s Ryan Farrag (15-1, 4 KOs) meets France’s Karim Guerfi (23-3, 6 KOs) in a match sanctioned for the European bantamweight title. Farrag’s lone defeat was afflicted by reigning IBF World bantamweight champion Lee Haskins in a 3-round contest that was part of the made-for-TV Prizefighter Tournament series. In Guerfi’s last outing, he scored a 10-round decision over Alejandro Gonzalez in a match held in Austin, Texas.

Eddie Hearn promoted last week’s big show in Liverpool. Hearn’s great rival Frank Warren gets the honors on Saturday. The main event and the Butler-Kokietgym match will air on Warren’s BoxNation subscription TV channel.


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