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British Scene: John Simpson vs Stephen Smith Preview

Dave Oakes previews Wednesday's British featherweight title clash between John Simpson and Stephen Smith.

British fight fans can look forward to midweek boxing on Sky this Wednesday night when John Simpson and Stephen Smith meet in an eagerly anticipated rematch for the British featherweight title.

The pair first met in September last year, with Smith edging a close split decision. Whilst the fight wasn’t the barnstormer that had been predicted, it was an engrossing battle between the experienced and rugged Simpson and the undefeated but untested Smith. Simpson had the better of Smith on the inside but it was Smith’s eye-catching combinations on the outside that were impressive enough to sway the judges in a fight which I scored level.

It was undoubtedly the hardest fight of Smith’s career, it was the first time he’d gone the championship distance and the first time he’d fought someone who was expecting to win. It was just another day at the office for Simpson, who followed the defeat with a stunning points victory over the much touted Martin Lindsay three months later to claim the British title.

You can’t help but admire Simpson, he’s never been handed an easy fight and has never gone looking for one. He’s a fighter’s fighter, a throwback to a bygone era where a defeat wasn’t looked upon as a career-ending catastrophe. His record, 22-7 (9 KO’s), is probably the most deceptive in world boxing.

Injury has curtailed Smith’s progress since the first fight, a damaged left hand sustained early in the fight keeping him out of the ring for the past seven months. Smith has said that his hand hampered his performance somewhat last time and he wasn’t able to sit down on his punches as much as he normally would.

One change from the first fight is Smith’s move to Gallagher’s gym, which is probably the hottest gym in Britain at the minute, with Joe Gallagher’s fighters on a long unbeaten run under his tutelage. It’s a move that I feel will pay dividends for the Liverpudlian.

Simpson is in fine form, as his win over Lindsay showed, and he’ll be fired up for revenge. On top of that, he’s ranked highly by the IBF and a win here could provide him with world title shot in the near future. Whilst the ever confident Smith is promising to put on a sparkling performance that will leave people in no doubt as to who’s the best featherweight in Britain. It has all the makings of another enthralling battle.

I can’t see the fight being anything other than a close, hard fought encounter. As always with Simpson, the fight won’t be one-sided and he’ll take some discouraging, but as long as ring rust isn’t a problem for Smith, one feels his sharper work will be enough to eke out another close points decision.

The main support on the bill sees David Price taking on Raphael Butler over eight rounds. After the debacle of Price’s last opponent wobbling in at close to 300lbs, it was a relief to see Butler weigh in at 265lbs, he didn’t look to be in phenomenal shape but at least looks like he’s seen the inside of a gym in past year.

Butler is an experienced opponent but Price should be able to dispatch him sometime after the fourth round.

e-mail Dave Oakes

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