Thursday, June 22, 2023

Dalton Smith: Becoming Adaptable

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."

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Taylor-Lopez

Josh Taylor certainly had a plan to beat Teofimo Lopez. Using jabs to the head and straight lefts to the body, it was clear that his goal was to break Lopez down and defang him for the later rounds. But Lopez quickly adapted to Taylor's tactics. By the fourth round, Lopez was ducking under the jab on a consistent basis and countering with hard straight rights and left hooks. Lopez also timed Taylor's straight left. Taylor would often cock his left hand back before letting it go and the punch was too deliberate and long. Lopez would sting him with something short before Taylor could connect with it.  

For whatever problems Lopez had in facing George Kambosos and Sandor Martin, fighters who had disciplined game plans and could box on the outside, Taylor's approach played into Lopez's strengths. In the first half of the fight, Taylor always initiated his sequences with the intention of getting closer on the inside. Thus, Lopez didn't have to play a cerebral game of chess. He didn't have to go find Taylor; he just had to react with hard counters.  

As Taylor lost confidence with his initial approach, he tried to let Lopez lead. Now Lopez isn't always naturally a lead fighter, but he had gained so much confidence in the earlier rounds that he enjoyed walking Taylor down. Flashing lead jabs and straight rights, Lopez not only beat Taylor to the punch, but it became clear that he was the one possessing more power.  

Lopez (right) landing a right hand
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Lopez took over the fight for good in the eighth round and put on a masterclass of aggressive boxing in the back end of the bout. Leading and countering, Lopez displayed his considerable skills and hit Taylor with lots of thunder. By the end of the fight, Taylor's spirit had dissipated. In tough fights against Regis Prograis and Jack Catterall, Taylor had been the better fighter in the championship rounds. But on Saturday there was no heroic stand or additional gear. Taylor's fiery intensity was now a distant memory.  

And that's the most disappointing part of Taylor's performance, not that he lost, but after he ran out of ideas, he didn't try to outwill Lopez, like he did against Catterall. On Saturday, there was an acceptance of defeat. 

After the fight, Taylor, who lost by scores of 117-111 and 115-113 x 2 (I had it 116-112), admitted that he was second best on the night. The once proud undisputed champion seemed oddly compliant by the end of the fight; the final defense of his junior welterweight title ended with a whimper. No, he didn't quit and he kept throwing punches, but he was eager to make it to the end of the fight upright and with his faculties intact. 

While Taylor may only be 32, it could be an old 32. He beat three tough fighters on his way to becoming undisputed – Ivan Baranchyk, Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez. He also had a much tougher developmental slate than many champions of this era, facing Ohara Davies in his 10th, Miguel Vazquez in his 11th and Viktor Postol in his 13th pro bout. 

He looked like a worn down and exhausted fighter in the second half against Lopez. His legs, which once were his prized assets, were plodding and mostly stationary. His fire wasn't there. And once that extinguishes, it's so tough to rekindle. 

Taylor's career seems adrift. He's admitted to blowing up in weight in recent years. He changed trainers twice, going from Shane McGuigan to Ben Davison to Joe McNally. He's talked about moving up to welterweight for years, yet there he was on Saturday at 140. Does he have trusted confidants to help him make key decisions? I don't know what his next step is, but I hope that he finds reliable counsel. Boxing isn't the place for those who have made money and are no longer fully dedicated.


The remarkable, strange career of Teofimo Lopez continues. In defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020 to become the lineal lightweight champion and now beating the top guy at junior welterweight, Lopez, still just 25, has notched two of the more impressive victories among his peer group, which includes Tank Davis, Shakur Stevenson, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia. In between the Lomachenko and Taylor performances, Lopez laid an egg against George Kambosos, where he appeared overconfident and underprepared in the ring. He authored a flat performance in beating Pedro Campa in his first outing at 140 lbs. and he was lucky to escape with a victory against the tricky Sandor Martin.  

Lopez has limitations against certain fight styles; he's also had a litany of out-of-the-ring issues that have played havoc with his personal life, which we can only assume have contributed to his erratic performance levels in the ring. He's had numerous family problems, including with his dad who trains him. He has admitted to having anxiety, as well as anger management problems. And this is just what we know about. 

Lopez is one of the fascinating figures in the sport. He has already beaten two lineal champions, and in matchups where he was the clear underdog. He had Lomachenko hardly throwing punches for seven rounds and forced Taylor to accept defeat far before the final bell. When Lopez is on, he is a truly elite fighter.  But we've also seen how he can get frustrated in the ring, how he can force things when the fight isn't going his way, that he doesn't always show up at his best. He's not a perfect fighter by any means. But if a fight is in his wheelhouse, if an opponent wants to bring the fight to him, then there are few better.  

Teofimo possesses rare gifts. He isn't intimidated by anyone and doesn't care what an opponent can do. He can hit hard with either hand. He's a terrific short- and mid-range counterpuncher. He has a stubbornness that's a blessing and a curse.  And he can make top fighters do the darndest things. He has shown us something unique in this era: a man who looks at what is supposed to be greatness across the ring, laughs at it, and conquers it. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.