Following six months out of action, Callum Smith is set to return to the ring on Saturday in preparation for his WBC International Super-middleweight title defence against Tobias Webb next month.
The 23-year-old fighter is eager to get back into his stride as quickly as possible, and will face Francois Bastient in a six round clash at the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester this weekend to ensure he is sharp and ready come May 17.
On World Boxing News, Smith said: "I am really eager to get back in the ring. I was very active in my first year as a pro so that made the six months I have been out feel a lot longer.
"I will be going in there on Saturday to give it my full attention. Really, it is a build up to the Webb fight; that is my priority. The Webb fight is a ten rounder so this will be good preparation for that fight.”
The hype around Smith, who is the youngest of four famous boxing brothers, was generated following an incredible year that saw him go on a run of six first round wins. He has had nine professional bouts in total and remains undefeated, which has seen his reputation grow.
Despite being injured for the last six months, the Liverpudlian remains positive prior to his return to the ring, which will be shown live on Sky Sports, and insists the time off has done him more good than bad.
He said: “It has been frustrating, the first few months did me good to have a bit of a rest, but I didn't want to be out for so long.
"I wasn’t able to train as much as I wanted to during those six months. The first few months I could only do running and swimming, but I do feel that I benefited from doing quite a bit of that, and some circuit stuff.
"I started do some light punching and it has only been the last few weeks that I started to punch properly. It has been frustrating because the main thing you want to do is punch, but I worked hard on other things and I feel the benefits from those now."
In Smith's last fight, against a vastly experienced world title challenger in Ruben Acosta, he won by KO in round six to win the vacant title that he is set to defend against Webb. Acosta was considered to be too much too soon by many, but Smith proved everyone wrong and became only the third man to stop him. He insists that the experience of that win will pay dividends next month.
"Acosta was a step up in class for me,” said Smith. “He had only been stopped twice; by a World champion and a former World champion, so to get the stoppage was great.
"I went six rounds and I think I learnt a lot more in those six rounds than I had done in my previous six fights, which had all ended in one round. I felt it was a good learning fight for me and a few more of those this year will do me good I think."
Smith expects an even tougher test against Webb next month, but he claims he is more than ready for the challenge as the best fighters tend to bring out the best in him.
He said: "Acosta had boxed at a higher level than Tobias has, but Webb is only young and I think he has more ambition than Acosta. I think it will be a tougher fight, he will certainly come to win; he only has one loss in 16 fights, and that was early on in his career in Prizefighter.
"He has improved a lot since then but I feel it is a step up I am ready for and one that will bring out the best performance in myself. I have always said that the better the opponent the better you will see from me, and I think I have proved that so far in my career. I intend on doing the same in Cardiff."
A win on Saturday against Bastient is vital for Smith in preparation for his fight with Webb, it would give him a good platform to build on for the rest of the year, which could be a big one in terms of the young fighter's career prospects.
Smith’s return to the ring is part of a great night of action, topped by Scott Quigg’s WBA World Super Bantamweight title defence against Tshifhiwa Munyai.
There’s also a mouth-watering Manchester derby between Lightweight stars Anthony Crolla and John Murray, Josh Warrington defends his Commonwealth Featherweight title against Rendall Munroe, Tyrone Nurse meets Tyler Goodjohn for the vacant English Light-welterweight title, Hosea Burton is hunting a first title fight and there’s action for Stephen Foster Jr, Jack Massey, Liam Hanrahan and Sam Hyde.
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