Liverpool’s Stephen Smith (23-1, 13KOs) is set to face Jose Pedraza (21-0, 12KOs) for the IBF World Super-Featherweight title in Connecticut on Saturday and his trainer, Joe Gallagher, is confident Smith has what it takes to emerge victoriously.
Pedraza will be making his second defence against Smith after claiming a split decision last October when he squared off against Edner Cherry in his first defence.
While the reigning champion may be known as a tricky customer, 2015 RING magazine trainer of the year, Gallagher, believes Smith has done everything right in preparation for the biggest fight of his career.
“Pedraza is a very good fighter,” said Gallagher. “He’s good orthodox, good southpaw, he can mix it up, and we’re prepared for whatever style he wants to bring on Saturday.
“It’s hard enough when you’re fighting a quality orthodox or a quality southpaw, of which he is, but not only that. He can also box on the back foot and on the front foot, so we’re varying sparring partners, we’re mixing up the sparring in between the rounds, switching stances, and whichever way Pedraza wants to fight at the end of the night, I’m sure we’ll have an answer for.
“Stephen’s camp boiled up nicely to Callum’s win over Hadillah Mohoumadi. There’s a good momentum. It’s been a slow burning rise with Stephen, but he’s got, as I call it ‘his World Cup final’ – something that is going to take heart and strength. His strength is going very well.
“I think it’s all up to Pedraza how it goes. Looking back at a few of his fights, he boxes slow and gets off to a good start but then he seems to lose his way a little in rounds. When you watch him against Andrey Klimov, he started out very well, put him under manners very quickly and had him nearly beat by the fourth round, but Klimov managed to stay in very well and boxed really well.
“He got to the middle rounds, lost his way a little bit, switched southpaw, so either way it’s going to be fascinating. We’ve just got to make sure we don’t get caught too early when he’s quick, and he’s sharp and try to take him into the deep waters like Edner Cherry did.”