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On the hunt for Steel City greatness

An interview with Dalton Smith, leading British amateur, who today turned professional.

For five years, Dalton Smith’s focus has been only on the Olympics but events have prompted a change of plan and he’s taking the plunge into the professional ranks.

“My focus was to go to Tokyo, represent my country there and win a medal. A couple of things then happened which led me to go pro now. AIBA has changed the amateur weights, taking out two male weight categories. I’m a big light-welterweight and the new categories meant having to be down an extra kilo. It may not sound like much but it’s a lot when you have to make weight every day. I was also getting a lot of hand injuries and the protection in the amateurs didn’t suit me. I’ve done the World Series Boxing with professional wrapping and gloves and I’ve come out fine.”

As an amateur, Smith won every age group national title so the excitement about his prospects is understandable. At just twenty-two years of age, he knows time is on his side and is happy to be patient.

“I’m in no rush. I want to get the right fights at the right time and I’ll be happy as long as I’m learning. I’m not going to go around calling out world champions! I’ve got a good team around me and I’ll listen to their advice. I want to be active this year and maybe fight for the English title early next year. I know Sam O’Maison (English Super Lightweight Champion) very well and have done a lot of sparring with him so if he’s still got the title next year, that’s a fight that could work. We’re both Sheffield fighters.”

Smith knows his boxing history and wants to take his place in the Steel City’s proud boxing tradition.

“Sheffield has produced a lot of champions: Prince Naseem, Johnny Nelson, Kell Brook, Ryan Rhodes. I want to be one of those names.”

His long list of role models goes far beyond his hometown and is the result of long hours spent watching fights while in camp.

“I try to learn from all fighters and pick up different bits. Lomachenko is very special, very few can do what he does. My favourite fighter is Canelo Alvarez. I’d like to think my style is similar: we’re both mid-range counter-punchers. I also loved watching Joe Calzaghe, with his hand speed, and, like me, he was coached by his dad.”

It’s easy to understand why Dalton relates to the Joe/Enzo link: his own close relationship with his father and coach Grant is a foundation of his success. He talks humbly about how fortunate he has been to have that close fatherly support and how it got him through the “moments as a teenager where you think do I really want to do this?”. He talks with pride about the shared joy of his first schoolboy title: “it was very emotional for me and my dad.”

Asked why fans should be excited to watch him, he instead speaks passionately about how important it is for fans to get behind all upcoming fighters (“it’s really hard without that support”). A selfless and thoughtful answer from a fighter with both the mindset and the skills to make his mark.

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