Smith seeking Cotto clash after maiden Kelly title defence
Lee Gormley | December 16, 2015
Liam Smith v Jimmy Kilrain Kelly
- WBO light-middleweight title fight
- Saturday, December 19th
- Scheduled for: 20:00 GMT
- Manchester Arena
- Live on Box Nation
Smith searching for successful maiden defence
After emphatically stopping American John Thompson at the Manchester Arena in October to lift the WBO light-middleweight title, Liam Smith returns to the scene of his success this weekend for a maiden defence of his crown against Jimmy Kilrain Kelly.
On the undercard of Andy Lee’s middleweight showdown with challenger Billy Joe Saunders, Liverpool’s Smith (21-0-1, 11 KOs) will look to make a successful first defence of his WBO strap in Manchester against Kelly (16-0, 7 KOs) in the final major boxing event this year.
‘Beefy’ targets future Cotto clash
The 27-year-old Merseysider enters his latest contest with undefeated Kelly as a huge odds-on 4/9 favourite to win by knockout, but he isn’t taking his Mancunian opponent lightly as ‘Beefy’ seeks more lucrative fights on the horizon.
“I know Kelly is going to go into the ring thinking this is his big chance but I’m not going to give him an inch the fight,” stated Smith.
“I have big ambitions and I’m not going to be foolish to overlook the threat he will bring. There are some major fights for me if I come through this one and certainly Miguel Cotto is right up there as one of the names I want to face.
“Cotto’s been a great champion and to share the ring with him and beat him will take me to that next level. I definitely believe I have what it takes to overcome him because my style would cause him some big problems.”
Lucrative 2016 contests in the mix
WBA champion Erislandy Lara and undefeated IBF titleholder Jermall Charlo may be future targets for Smith too, who is keen on unifying the 154-pound division, with the recently crowned champion 11/2 to stop Kelly within rounds 1-3 and move on to more promising ventures in 2016.
“2016 is going to be an even better year for me. This year has been amazing by getting a shot at the world title and winning it but the next year can be something even more special,” declared ‘Beefy’, who is 4/1 to taste defeat for the first time in Manchester.
“I’m in this sport to face the best and if the opportunity presents itself I would love to unify the titles against either Erislandy Lara or Jermall Charlo next year. Fans want to see the best fights and having all the champions face each other makes sense.
“I believe I can beat anyone in the division and I want to go in there and prove it.”
Smith eyes simple ‘wages for Christmas’
Manchester challenger Kelly enters the ring on home soil following a unanimous decision victory over Martin Fidel Rios, in which he clinched the vacant Inter-continental, and he is 12/1 to inflict a stunning stoppage on Smith. Although the reigning champion is confident of a comfortable display and claimed even Kelly’s corner don’t believe in their fighter.
“Without sounding bad, I’m going to wipe the floor with Jimmy Kelly and show the difference in levels; why I’m there and why he shouldn’t. He should be fighting for a British or Commonwealth title, not fighting me,” continued Smith.
“His coach came and sat next to mine last time out in Manchester and said ‘we know we’re not ready for Liam, that fight is down the line’. This was at his last fight, but he has it now, in his next fight. I’ll prove they were right.
“For me, this is just wages for Christmas. It means I go on holiday and have a drink on Jimmy Kelly while lying on a beach somewhere.”
With potentially high-profile bouts with the likes of Puerto Rican legend Cotto or fellow division title-holder Lara on the cards for next year, Smith will look to end 2015 in style and cap-off what has been an impressive 12 months for British fighters.
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Coral’s top tip: Liam Smith could is confident of proving he is too much for Jimmy Kelly, so back him to stop the Mancunian challenger within the first three rounds at 11/2.