FROM STEVE BRENNER IN ARLINGTON
No-one can doubt the heart of Liam Smith.
The Englishman walked into the lion’s den here in Texas , taking on the Mexican hero Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez who brought a bumper 51,240 crowd to their feet at the home of the Dallas Cowboys with every thumping, fearsome shot which rocked the WBO light-middleweight champion.
Smith showed huge courage, and no little skill, in attempting to repel the bombs flying in his direction from the flame haired assassin.
The boy Beefy had his moments, most notably in the fourth and fifth rounds which saw Alvarez come under sustained pressure.
Yet , unfortunately for this member of a proud Liverpudlian band of boxing brothers, it just wasn’t enough.
All the requisite power, quality shots came from the now three time world champion.
And when another rocket smashed into his now battered body in the ninth, the game was up.
Alvarez has been trumpeted all week long by Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions as the hottest ticket in boxing.
Gennady Golovkin , whose name came up instantly in the post-fight interviews, would counter that view.
Yet on this evidence, it will take a special fighter – one of GGG’s calibre perhaps – to bring Canelo’s castle crumbling down.
Worries about him being able to function at 154 lbs were ultimately unwarranted.
The Mexican fans , however, will remember Smith’s battling qualities.
“If I would have waited a little longer and gotten more experience I would have been able to fight a guy like that better. I am very disappointed. Canelo was too good today, I needed better timing, my timing was off tonight, “ admitted a downbeat Smith.
“It took me a while to get in to it and my timing was awful. I couldn’t really land any punches. I was smaller and had no time to make him even think twice. We caught the body shots well, and he handled his own.”
“First of all, I want to say I told you I was going to give a great fight and get the championship and here it is, “ said Alvarez.
“I started going after him, but in the second round I hurt my hand. I hurt my right hand and had to use the left more often. There was some disparity but that’s what happened. I felt he was very strong in the beginning so I had to put the body work and felt he would dwindle, that’s how I did my job.
“Liam Smith was a resilient fighter, he has tough, has a lot of heart. He thinks before he attacks, I could tell in the way he blocked in the way he approached me. I was actually only using my left hand for the most part, making sure left hand was connecting with power. I hurt my right hand in the second round when I hit him in the head.
The body shot, was what I focused on, making sure I worked his body down, and that is what secured the victory today.
“I give big punches with my body shots, and I enjoyed it very much. I fear no man. I am the best fighter. “
Will Golovkin be given the opportunity to prove the Mexican master wrong?
“About a month ago, we offered GGG three or four times as much to make the fight, “ he continued.
“We are ready for him and he doesn’t want to accept. As I said, we are a team and I fear no one. I fight the best and I want to fight the best, I am the best at this sport.”
It was hard to disagree.
With Steven Gerrard flying in from Los Angeles to cheer on his friend from Merseyside, Smith didn’t need any further motivation.
This was the third defence of his title yet undoubtedly the most difficult evening of his life.
The 28 year-old has never experienced a fighter in Canelo’s class.
He will learn from this bruising lesson in power punching. That , however, won’t ease the pain.
The opening exchanges were competitive though Canelo’s raw, brute force was there for all to see.
The first four rounds belonged to the Mexican. Smith though wasn’t going away. He began to make headway in the fourth and fifth , pushing Alvarez onto the ropes and unleashing with success.
It was encouraging. But not enough.
Smith was put down by an overhand right in the seventh, a thump to the body in the eighth and when another bomb exploded into his ribs, that was that.
The stats told their own story : Álvarez connected with 51.4% of power punches (113 of 220) , and 157 of 422 in total.
“Liam perhaps could have done with more experience before this fight but this is what he wanted, “ said promoter Frank Warren.
“I had to start somewhere, “ concluded Smith who bemoaned the fact that a cut in sparring 10 weeks ago messed with his preparation.
“He was too good for me. He is not a massive puncher but they are well placed.
“I will be back.”
Indeed he will.