Hot talent Mitchell Smith, last year’s 57kg ABA Senior Champion, makes his professional debut this Friday (1st June) at the York Hall, Bethnal Green.
The 19-year-old from Harrow Weald will fight in the super-featherweight division making his entry into the pros with a four-round contest.
BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) will televise the card live and exclusive headlined by Billy Joe Saunders’ Commonwealth Middleweight title defence against Bradley Pryce.
Mitchell Smith speaks to boxing writer Glynn Evans about his background, amateur career and training as a pro.
Name: Mitchell Smith
Weight: Super featherweight
Family background: I’ve three sisters and two brothers but basically I just live with my brother Jez and my old man in Harrow Weald. Jez is 17 and boxes for West Ham (ABC).He won a bronze at the Europeans, two national schoolboy titles and gold at the Three Nations. I’ve got a baby girl of my own on the way, due in September.
Trade: Never worked. Always been a full time boxer.
Nickname: They call me ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? I started at six after I was getting knocked about a bit at school. Dad took me to the Harrow (ABC) gym, I went to a couple of shows and thought it was for me.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I had my first bout at 11 and won….on the only stoppage of my career!
I stayed at the Harrow till I was 13 or 14 then moved to Bushey ABC where I was coached by Danny Shinkwin, a very good man. There, I won two NABCs, a national junior ABA title, and bronze in the Three Nations.
Danny decided I was too young to enter the senior ABAs and refused to enter me. But I was desperate – didn’t fancy training with no bouts to aim for – so I ended up moving to the Welling Garden City club, under Paul Cook and Harry Carrick. I had one club bout with them then went in the ABAs, really knuckled down and won at 57kilos. That has to be my amateur highlight. I boxed four times, beating James Allen of the Army, a two time ABA winner in the semis, then Chris Blinkhorn in the final.
Though Danny wanted me to wait a year, I was very confident in my ability to win the ABAs, from sparring top kids. I only boxed calibre lads, kids who’d won titles, so knew I’d not get hurt and reckoned if I trained hard enough, there wasn’t anyone out there who could beat me.
All told I had 54 amateur fights and won 38 but only dropped two unanimous decisions and even they were pretty close. Nearly all my defeats were touch and go.
To be honest, the amateurs was always up and down. I only boxed four times for England, twice v Wales, twice v Ireland. Zack Davies, a good Welsh kid, beat me something like 12-9. All that watching your weight when you’re young, makes your mind emotional. I’m short, stocky, big boned and depriving yourself of little treats when all your mates are out on the piss is mentally hard. You have to have grounded morals
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? Basically Team GB were very reluctant to let me fight for them. I never got a fair slice of the cake. I went up to spar before the World Youth Games and was told I did brilliant but they always sent that Qais Ashfaq who won the ABAs this year. Everyone wants to fight at the Olympics and World championships but I felt there was nothing more I could do so I turned over. I only had half a dozen senior bouts.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m promoted by Francis Warren (Queensberry Promotions) and co-managed by Richard Clark and (ex British light-welter king) Jason Rowland. Jason also trains me and my Dad will help him work my corner. Jason trains you hard and gets into your mind. He’s a great man for conditioning. We gel really well. He knows an awful lot about the game. A US company called Usana supply my supplements.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I usually train six days a week. I run between four and seven miles early most mornings, around eight o’clock, then go to the boxing gym around one. We usually use either RJs in Edmonton or the Origin gym in Rainham.
I usually start of with a bit of shadow boxing, then go on to pads and bags. All told I’ll probably do about 12 rounds. I’ll finish off with a 30 minute circuit; a mixture of top and bottom half, loads of pull ups and sit ups. I’ll build it up far more as my fights become longer. I’m always off sparring. I’ve worked with Carl Frampton, Lewis Pettitt and a few good amateurs, particularly at the West Ham gym.
I enjoy every part equally. I’m just really happy in the gym. Least favourite is lifting these big tractor tyres. We have to drag ‘em and flip ‘em. They give me blisters cos I’ve got soft hands.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? Exciting! I think I’ve got something and I’m gonna use it. Though I only look about 16, nobody’s stronger or quicker.
I can do anything, adapt to anyone. If I’ve got to fight, box, jab, switch I’ll do it and win the fight. I’ve never been stopped or put down. Amateur, I was taught differently but now I’m starting to put people over in sparring.
I’m so ready to go. My debut’s been cancelled three times already. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but I can’t wait to get the ball rolling so other people can decide.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Everything. Make myself stronger, faster. I know I’ve got the ability to go 12 rounds already. They won’t let me but I know I could fight for the British title tomorrow and win it!
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? As an amateur, 15, 16, 17, I’d just pick and move but, lately, I’ve slowed my feet up while keeping my hands fast.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Probably Carl Frampton in sparring. He’s very powerful for a superbantamweight. He’s not only a fighter, he’s very good all round, very quick.
All time favourite fighter: Sugar Ray Leonard. He was quick.
All time favourite fight: Cotto-Margarito II. Cotto never put a foot wrong.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Floyd Mayweather v Mike Tyson. I’m not sure who’d win!
What is your routine on fight day? I like to get up early, around 8ish and stay active. If I lie in bed all day I’d be sluggish and not perform. I’ll have a bit of porridge or scrambled egg for breakfast then take Miley, my little white Staff, for a walk. Then I’ll chill, listen to calm music, a bit of Phil Collins or Michael Buble or watch TV. Anything to take my mind off the fight. I like to get to the arena early so I can visualise and get comfy in my surroundings in the changing room. I’m nice and calm, ready to go. Nerves are good. They make me perform better.
Entrance music: ‘Push The Feeling On’ by Nightcrawlers.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? To completely clean up; from the Harrow title to the world title!
How do you relax? I go out carp fishing over Uxbridge way. I’ll often go Friday morning till Monday night with a pal or two; take a stove and make me own grub. Otherwise, just chill with my family or girlfriend.
Football team: West Ham. I watch ‘em on the TV but I want to get over there and watch a game live.
Read: Only Boxing News, really. I’m not a fan of reading. I’ve started several books but when I get a few pages in, I get bored and stop.
Music: I like The Script…calm music.
Films/TV: I like comedies. My favourite film is ‘The Green Mile’ with Tom Hanks. On TV, I’m a huge fan of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’.
Aspiration in life: Just to be happy.
Motto: He Who Dares, Wins!
*SAUNDERS v PRYCE IS LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE ON BOXNATION (SKY