Liam Smith and Anthony Fowler may not exactly see eye to eye anymore these days, but they both agree on one thing going into the Merseyside derby – blood will be spilt on Saturday night.
Smith, 33, and Fowler, 30, are set to collide at the Liverpool Arena in King’s Dock on October 9.
Smith (29-3-1, 16 KOs), 33, turned professional shortly after winning the English National Boxing Amateur Championships in 2008 and still lives in Merseyside, not far from Monarchs Quay.
A veteran of 33 fights, Smith has only lost to some of the very best, including Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez, 31, surging contender Jaime Munguia, 25, and a controversial defeat to Magomed Kurbanov – a fight many felt should have gone the other way on the night.
“I feel good, the way the fighter should feel in fight week,” Smith told a press conference at the M&S Bank Arena on Wednesday.
“We’re here, if I’m not ready now I’ll never be, so I’m just looking forward to Saturday and being back.
“I had a long time out, 17 months, I got the cobwebs off in Russia and you’ll see a better Liam Smith.
“He talks about desire and that, you’re obsessed with it and the stuff he posts out.
“Desire, I’ve lived in a house with three brothers where boxing’s been our life, we’ve got to have desire to do stuff we’ve done, it’s not like I’ve won British titles and that.
“We’ve all got desire, we can all push to that, we’ll see Saturday.
“I still think it’s a step too far for him, you can twelve rounds in the gym with as many sparring partners as you want but it’s different under the lights with ten-ounce gloves on and when you’ve got adrenaline inside of you.
“Shane can help as much as he wants but when the bell goes it’s only me and Anthony in there.”
Smith then paused for a moment, before directing his ire towards Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn.
“Let’s not beat around the bush, you made this, Anthony didn’t call you for me, you did,” he said.
“You put a fight to me, and I’ll take it, I’ll think, right, okay, what’s the pro and cons to it, I’ll take it.
“I said to my manager, let me know if the Fowler fight is the route we’re going, because if that’s the route we’re going then so be it.
“Obviously in hindsight I wasn’t really looking at Anthony as an opponent, he should be fighting for the British title which I had a long time.
“He’s jumped past that, he’s in a fight now and we’re three days away – we’ll see.
“Of course, I do, I’ve got things in my own career and my own pride I want to keep. I’ve never lost to a domestic fighter, and I fully intend of keeping that on Saturday night.
“As a family we’ve never lost a scouse derby and I fully intend of keeping that.
“My own aspirations for challenging for a world title again, if I lose to Anthony Fowler I’ve got no chance of doing that so I’ve got a lot at stake for myself and that’s why I’ve knuckled down the way I have.”
Fowler kept things fairly cordial, although he did point out the obvious differences in terms of their activity over the past couple of years.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’m here because I want to be here and win, I want to fight,” he responded.
“We don’t call bluffs; we take fights that we believe we can win.
“I’ve had the best camp of my life, I’m at the best possible version of myself, I’ve had a full camp with no injuries at all, I’m at my physical peak.
“I’m coming off four straight knockout wins, I’ve been very active, so let’s have it.
“He’s been to the top, he’s been World Champion, I haven’t.
“I’ve had that mad desire since I was 11, it’s all I’ve ever wanted my whole life.
“I’ve given my whole life to boxing, it’s all paid off luckily enough, but it means nothing without the win, I’m not here to make up the numbers.
“I’m fully prepared for it, I’ve been visualising it every day, day in, day out, for weeks and weeks.
“I couldn’t be in a better place, mentally, my weight, my strength, my sparring, I’ve had some tough, tough sparring.
“I did twelve rounds, and I was fresh as a daisy, I’m in unreal shape because I haven’t been getting tired, just training, and thinking about this fight – I haven’t stopped. I’m just in a great place.
“We’ve both got two arms, two legs, it’s as simple as that – we’re both men.
“I’ve been active over the last two years, Liam’s had one fight in two years, that bound to play a part. Being inactive and I feel the time is right for me, I feel like this is my time.”