In speaking with 140-lb. undefeated prospect Dalton Smith (14-0, 10 KOs), "adaptable" features heavily during the conversation. To describe his style, Smith, from Sheffield, England, fancies himself as a mid-range counterpuncher, but he acknowledges that there are fights where he's gone for the quick knockout, those where he boxed from the outside and others where he's beaten opponents at close range. He can pot-shot, throw in combination, or win fights with his jab. Smith sees this as all part of his maturation process in becoming a well-rounded fighter.
"I think every fighter has a certain way they like to fight," Smith said. "But the best can adapt, learning the aspects where you’re not so good. You have to work on your inside fighting, your outside fighting. I just think you have to find the balance where you’re able to adapt.
"I used to watch a lot of Mexican fighters, Juan Manuel Marquez, for instance...most recently Canelo Alvarez. I based my style on that type of fighter. But as I’ve gotten older, and I've been going through the levels, you got to be able to keep adding to your game."
|Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson|
His father and trainer Grant Smith also is the head coach for flyweight champion Sunny Edwards, who is the classic boxer/mover that relies on his accuracy and legs. Edwards hardly resembles Dalton in the ring, but Grant's approach to training is working with whatever style a fighter has and using that as the foundation for improvement. Dalton sees his father's versatility as one of his best aspects.
"I think the great thing about my dad," said Dalton "is that he’s adapted his whole approach to boxing. He never boxed himself. He got into boxing the same time as me, so we’ve been on the journey together. All of the knowledge he’s got it’s from him studying boxing and him deciding what works and what doesn’t...He’ll work with any fighter's style, see what he's good at, and go from there."
Dalton next faces Sam Maxwell (17-1, 11 KOs) for the British and Commonwealth super lightweight titles on July 1st at the Sheffield Arena. And although Maxwell is 34 and Smith is 26, Dalton has known Maxwell since his amateur days. While Smith is the more highly-touted fighter, he understands that Maxwell will be fighting for his career.
"The Maxwell fight is a great fight for this stage of my career," he said. "Sam is well-experienced. We know him from the amateur days. We never actually sparred, but we know each other pretty well. He’s a veteran of the game. At this stage of his career, this is all he’s got. So, this is a big fight for him. He’s going with every intention to take that belt [Smith's British title] from me and move on. So, I have to prepare 100%."
For this camp, Smith left the comforts of home and spent two-and-a-half weeks sparring in Manny Robles' Southern California gym. A highlight of this experience was getting the opportunity to spar Vergil Ortiz. For Smith, he understands that he needs to keep getting better, to add to his game. Back home, he's at a different phase of career. Now, to get the right fighters for his preparation, he has to pay for sparring partners.
For Smith, the grind is what makes him better. Being in the gym every day, using each opportunity to learn, he's trying to absorb as much as he can. He refers to himself as a sponge.
When looking back on how he's progressed as a professional, he gives a frank assessment on what he needed to do to improve:
"Being able to settle down with the pace of a fight, becoming a championship-round fighter...that was what I needed," he said. "I had a lot of early knockouts, but the thing I needed was the rounds. It’s only been the last three or four fights where I’ve been able to get the rounds in. I've become a more experienced fighter. I've learned some of the little tricks, on the inside and outside."
|Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson|
Smith was an accomplished amateur who fought all over the world for Team GB – Bulgaria, Samoa, Ukraine, Croatia, Ireland, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Poland, North Macedonia, Belarus, Italy, and Turkey among other locales. Despite his amateur pedigree, he never made a push for the Olympics. AIBA's decision to lower his weight class from 64 Kgs to 63 Kgs made it a tough task for him at the phase of his career to stay on weight during every day of a tournament.
Initially, he was heartbroken in missing out on his Olympic dream, but after turning pro in 2019 he hasn't looked back. While many of his peers in the amateurs were stuck in limbo during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was able to get valuable professional experience. Having been with Matchroom throughout his career, Smith is pleased that he is already headlining major shows in his hometown.
Smith hopes to become the next great fighter from Sheffield, joining the ranks of world champions like Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Clinton Woods and Kell Brook. But he also only looks at one fight at a time. He knows that he isn't yet a finished product, that there is still much to learn. He references Floyd Mayweather's ability to keep adding to his arsenal, even later in his career, as an example that he follows.
Smith knows that the grind is paying off. He's accomplishing far more than he initially expected. He understands that big fights are on the horizon for him in the next 18-24 months, but only if he continues to win and get better. And he thinks that we will see his best on July 1st.
"I believe this fight is giving me that spark," he said. "There’s something in the way I’ve been training – this is going to be a big performance from me. I can feel it."