The Jessie Vargas fight is ‘dead in the water,’ according to Liam Smith, but Tim Tszyu is not off the table yet, writes Paul Wheeler
IT has been two months since Liverpool’s Liam Smith travelled to Russia and dropped a controversial unanimous decision to Magomed Kurbanov, who was fighting in his hometown. Boxing News scored the fight 115-113 to Smith.
Having had ample time to reflect on the bout, Smith is more certain than ever that he was extremely unfortunate to come out on the wrong side of the verdict.
“I think the same thing now that I thought when I left the ring that night – I definitely won that fight,” the 32-year-old said to BN. “I remember getting back to my hotel after the fight and looking on the boxing websites and social media. Genuinely, I couldn’t find one person who thought that Kurbanov won the fight.
“At the time, I thought I’d done enough to win, but because I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch it back yet, I didn’t want to comment too much. When I got home, I watched the fight twice and I certainly didn’t think that it was even a draw, let alone a loss. If it was anywhere else other than Russia, I think I would’ve got the decision.
“I knew it was a risk going to Russia, as I know what can happen in boxing. So I can’t really complain too much. But the thing that I’m absolutely devastated about is that if I’d have got the decision, I would’ve been fighting Tim Tszyu next in a final eliminator [for the WBO super-welterweight belt]. That fight would’ve gone out to purse bids. [Promoter] Eddie [Hearn] would’ve bid for it and the Australians would’ve bid for it, because Tszyu’s building up a name in Australia now. So that’s why the Kurbanov decision was such a kick in the nuts.”
Of Smith’s last nine contests, only three have been staged in the UK. Having fought on away turf against the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Jaime Munguia and Kurbanov, the Merseysider has forged a reputation as a fearless road warrior. Although it looks like his next appearance could be back home in Liverpool on October 9, competing on foreign soil again in the future would be no problem for “Beefy”.
“If you offer me a fight anywhere in the world, if the fight makes sense to me then I’ll take it,” declared Smith, 29-3-1 (16). “I know it’s a bit cheesy and cliché, but I’m a fighting man. I don’t care where the fight is or who it’s against – I’ll fight anyone. A quick look at my record shows that I’m not just all talk.
“It’d probably be stupid of me after what happened before, but if you offered me a Kurbanov rematch in Russia, I’d probably take it. But, that being said, when I was offered the Kurbanov fight in the first place, I didn’t have many other options if I’m being honest, so it was a no-brainer – I had to take it. Now, though, I’ve got five or six options.”
Jessie Vargas is not one of those options.
“He’s just messing around,” Smith said of the American, who he has been exchanging barbs with on social media. “He wants too much money. I’ve tried everything to make that fight. I’ve openly said, October 9 in Liverpool, I’ll take less money. But I think, by all accounts, that Eddie needs him to take less money also, and he won’t. So that fight is dead in the water, as far as I can see. There’s talk of it potentially happening in February next year, but it’s gone on too long for me now. I’m not interested in it any more to be honest.
“He’s a coward. That’s the way I look at it. He’s just trying to keep his name in the picture by calling everybody out. He’s calling Mikey Garcia out, he’s reacting to Blair Cobbs and he’s reacting to my tweets. F**k off, Jessie, you’re boring me now. You haven’t been in the ring since February last year. It’s a good fight but he’s got to be realistic with money, otherwise he’ll just be sitting around on the sidelines, which is probably what he’ll end up doing.”
The Tszyu fight is one that could happen, although there are some financial obstacles that would have to be overcome.
“With what I’ve been offered, it’s definitely not worth my while going out to Australia [to face Tszyu], as I’m getting offered more money for fights here [in the UK],” Smith stated. “If I’d beaten Kurbanov, I would’ve been getting four-times the money that I’m being offered for the Tszyu fight now, because there would’ve been purse bids. The Kurbanov decision robbed me of all that. Now, all of a sudden, they can offer me whatever they want because I’m coming off a loss. And I can’t really argue with that, even though I shouldn’t have lost. So I can’t really demand more. Whether they’ll come back with another offer, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Working Smith’s corner for the Kurbanov bout was Declan O’Rourke and Joe McNally. Heading into his next outing, the Liverpudlian has chosen to continue with this training team.
“I’m going to stick with those two lads,” Smith confirmed. “I think they deserve a full camp with me. I was only with them for four weeks last time. What we did in that time went very well. It wasn’t their fault that I lost the Kurbanov fight. I think I boxed well, considering that I hadn’t been in the ring for 17 months and I hadn’t made 154lbs in over two years. I should’ve got the decision over an unbeaten 25-year-old Russian in Russia, so I think it’s only fair that I give Declan and Joe a full camp for 10 or 12 weeks.
“My target is still to get the biggest fights possible. In no way do I feel like I’m on the slide. If you look at the landscape at 154, I can compete with anyone in the world, so I’m definitely pushing for big fights.”