Sheffield super lightweight prospect Dalton Smith has already caught the eye on his way to 11-0, now he hopes to steal his own show.
The 25-year-old tops the bill in his hometown on Saturday night at the Sheffield Arena against Sam O’maison.
“I’m buzzing,” Smith said. “It’s come sooner than expected, headlining in my city, but I’ve got a great opponent and I’ve got great support coming out and this is the opportunity to move my career to the next step and stamp my name as Sheffield’s next big thing.”
The contest is for the British title and therefore represents a move towards the belts he has short, medium and long-term aspirations for.
“I want to be a world champion,” Smith continued. “I wouldn’t be in the game if I didn’t think I could be. I want to be a world champion but these are the steps along the way. I want to pick the prestigious belts up, British, Commonwealth, European, those traditional belts that have been around boxing a long time but I’ve got one job to do and that’s win Saturday night. Then we move on from there, but I’m in it for the long run. I’m only 25 so time is on my side.”
It's not lost on Dalton that many of his favorite fighters took those same steps, and many of them also appeared at the Sheffield Arena where Smith would watch them as he grew up, igniting his fighting passion.
“No. 1 is Kell Brook recently,” Smith said, of some of the fighters he has admired. “But growing up and going to the arena, I followed Ryan Rhodes, I saw Ricky Hatton there, Clinton Woods, and I used to go and watch those guys and going to the arena and seeing the atmosphere is where I found the love, and it’s me at 25 now. It’s my time to do that.”
Smith has gone about his business quietly, letting his performances speak for themselves. It’s a trait he’s inherited from his dad, Grant, one of the go-to coaches in British boxing.
But Grant doesn’t like or seek attention. You won’t fight him doing many interviews or putting himself forwards for awards or appreciation.
“Everyone who knows my dad knows he’s not one for the cameras of the limelight,” Dalton continued. “He’s in it for the boxing. All he wants to do is train his lads in the gym and win fights. The way boxing is now, you’ve got to be in the limelight, you’ve got to be in the media, and that’s where people take notice so my dad doesn’t really get the credit but as long as he knows his lads are winning and we’re getting the recognition, that’s good enough for him. But I think now his son’s headlining the show, we’ve got the other lads in the gym, Sunny Edwards, Florian Marku headlining out in Albania, his fighters are a force on the boxing scene.”
It doesn’t matter to Dalton. He wants his dad to be comfortable, though perhaps might wonder how many top fighters would gravitate to his father if Grant put himself in the public eye more.
“Be yourself, that’s how I believe I am,” Dalton went on. “I feel I’m a grounded kid, like anybody else, and that’s the way my dad is. He feels he hasn’t got to be on camera and try and big things up, he’s just himself. He’s a stubborn man, he’s stuck in his ways so I just leave him to it.”
But the gym is busy and there are positive vibes there. Until now, many of the stable have flown under the radar but that could be about to change and the achievements will only had to the gym’s clear camaraderie.
“When we’re in the gym, we’ve got Sunny in there and he’s got one of the best boxing brains,” Dalton explained. “We’ve got young talent coming up and success breeds success and there are no egos in our gym, so if you think you can come in and run the show, it doesn’t happen.”
O’maison is 17-3-1 but he’s had just one fight in three years. Smith knows what he’s up against, but also knows the pressure to perform at home is on.
“We did a bit of sparring about five years ago so we know each other,” Smith said. “Obviously I’ve developed a lot more than he has over the last couple of years with his inactivity but Sam’s a good fighter, he’s got the experience, he’s got the power and the boxing brain so I’ve got to be on it and sharp on Saturday night. I’ve trained like I do for all my fights and now is the time for people to see who I really am and I’m going to put on a show.”