Dalton Smith will look to continue his excellent start to life in the professional ranks as he faces his toughest test so far in the form of Lee Appleyard at the AO Arena in Manchester on Saturday night.
Smith is being touted as one of British boxing’s hottest prospects and a win over Appleyard would see him claim his first belt as a pro, the vacant English super-lightweight title.
In an interview earlier this week with Boxing Social, Appleyard claimed the pressure would be on Smith (7-0, 6 KOs). However, Sheffield’s ‘Thunder’ happily disagrees with that statement and claims that the pressure is firmly the other way around.
He explained to Boxing Social: “I couldn’t disagree more with that. Yes, there’s pressure on me, of course there is, that never changes with every fight. But when Lee loses where does he go? This is another fight on the path for me and a big stepping stone to where I want to be.
“I know Lee is dangerous. He always is and even more so in this fight, as he knows what’s on the line. He can’t build again after this and time isn’t particularly on his side. I’m expecting the best Lee Appleyard and I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.
“He’s one of the most professional fighters you can come across. I’ve got so much respect for him and our camps get on very well. It’s just how it is in this business and we’ll shake hands after the fight. But when we’re in there, there’s no time for us to be friends.”
After a points win on his debut, Smith has racked up six successive stoppage wins and the interest in the Sheffield man continues to build. He was simply dominant last time out, as he took Ishmael Ellis apart in February until it was stopped by the Brummie’s corner after three rounds.
That date was initially reserved for this fight until Appleyard and his manager caught Covid-19. Now, the local derby between the Sheffield star and the Rotherham throwback is on the table and it could well be a show stealer on the night.
For the 24-year-old Smith, the addition of the English title provides an added incentive for him, as he looks to kickstart the process towards major titles in his young career.
“Last time out with Ellis I expected more rounds. He’d been in with good kids and got some wins, so I was genuinely expecting to face some problems. But, the first time I tagged him clean, I sensed that he wasn’t prepared to engage, so I was patient, broke him down and came away with the win,” recalled Smith.
“I got him out of there and that’s how it goes in boxing. Now I’m glad this has been rescheduled and we’ve got the local derby on, it’s just a shame there’s no crowd for it. Its my grandad’s birthday, too, on Saturday, so that’ll be a nice present for him to bring home the English title.
“When you look back at the history of the title, a lot of the big names have won it at their weight and I want to do that, too. I want to go that traditional route, that looks to have been lost a bit in recent years. I’m not overlooking Lee and he’ll be desperate to cause the upset, so this is a proper fight and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Family is never far away for Smith. It may be his grandad’s birthday on Saturday, but the mastermind behind his success is his father, who will be driving him on from the corner. Those in boxing are well aware of how good a trainer Grant Smith is.
However, where many other trainers receive and court a lot more publicity, that is not something Grant Smith is interested in. He stays away from the cameras and makes it all about his fighters, which was clear for all to see a couple of weeks back when Sunny Edwards claimed the IBF flyweight world title.
The credit for Grant poured in on social media and it provided a huge sense of pride for Dalton. Seeing another world champion in Steel City Gym only adds more fuel to the fire, as a potential glimpse into his near future.
“My dad is camera shy and he’s never been one for the limelight. He said he’d been offered all these interviews with sites but he keeps saying no, as he’s really not bothered and he’s only bothered in training his lads,” said Dalton. “That what matters to him and that’s what he’s in this sport for. Other trainers aren’t always like that, but it’s each to their own.
“Sunny’s performance was outstanding, wasn’t it? He beat one of the best fighters at his weight and I’m proud to see my dad helping another fighter achieve his dream. It drives me on more as well. My dad had Sunny in the amateurs, too, and the talent has always been there. If he can do it, so can I and it’s about time that my dad is getting the credit he deserves.
“People were talking about how he was in the corner. I was a bit surprised to be honest, as he’s like that with every fighter giving precise instructions and driving his fighter on. It’s not a shock for people who have been involved in this sport for a while. I’m not going to blow any more smoke up his backside now though! He puts in the work and he’s committed, which is how exactly how a good trainer should be.”
However, Smith’s final thoughts turn back to the man who will be standing on the opposite side of the ring to him in Appleyard. Despite the friendship between the camps, Smith is ready to make another statement on Saturday night, as he aims to make his already glowing star shine even brighter.
“There’s no excuses if I lose to Lee. We’ve seen enough fighters recently come unstuck by overlooking someone they should beat on paper. I’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen to me,” said Smith. “I’ve got a really tough job on my hands, but I’m aiming to once again do it in style. I can’t stress enough, how much I’m looking forward to this fight.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.