Going into Smith v Williams I, the odds suggested it was a pick-em fight. Seven months and nine intense rounds on, the pair will go into Saturday’s rematch with the market having barely changed. Despite being pulled out by his corner after a head clash (or a headbutt depending on which side of the fence you’re sitting on) Williams will once again start as the marginal 7/10 favourite. Not the usual scenario for a man coming off a ‘stoppage loss’.
In the run up to this weekend Smith has not been shy in looking to capitalise on the fact that William’s trainer Gary Lockett decided to pull his man out of the contest last time around. When speaking to 32Red earlier this week he went as far as saying Williams “could be mentally weak” and made it clear he felt his heart let him down when the going got tough. Bold claims that have hardly helped reduce the tensions between the pair.
This narrative from Team Smith appears to have been largely accepted too. Not so much the fact Williams ‘quit’ – it was his trainers call to end the contest after all – but certainly the feeling that Smith had begun to turn the tide in the latter stages of the contest and was starting to take over before the contentious ending came.
I’ll admit, I was guilty of accepting this as true until watching the fight back again this week and on first glance I was more than tempted on Smith to stop Williams between rounds 10-12 at 10/1, but on second viewing, I’m just not sure it’s entirely true. Undeniably, Williams was ahead at the half way stage, but on my card he also took the eigth round and while he was losing the ninth, he was still having success right up until the point they ‘clashed heads’ with around twenty seconds remaining.
Smith had been doing better work in rounds seven to nine than he had in the previous six, but unfortunately for him you have to do better than your opponent to take them on the cards, not just better than your previous efforts. Whether you’re calling it a headbutt or a head clash, it was this incident that ‘turned the tide’ back in April and it would be risky business to bank on that happening once again. It’s also largely forgotten that Smith missed weight first time out and there’s a fair question to be asked as to whether he would have had the energy to kick-on in the later rounds had he made the originally agreed limit.
Another claim Smith has made in the build-up is that he’s been a different animal in training this time. Maybe so. However, I’m personally more inclined to place my bets on what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve heard and on April’s evidence, Williams was the technically sounder boxer, notably the more active, won more rounds and is my pick to win on points at 15/8. I don’t disagree Smith could improve on Saturday (the obvious adjustment being to jab his way into range as opposed to just walk forward with a high guard), but I’d always be wary of backing a fighter who feels they can just switch back on previous form when they’re under the lights. More often than not, that just doesn’t work out.
Joe Gallagher (Smith’s trainer) fighters are well known to be slow starters and fast finishers in their fights and I don’t see Saturday being any different, but I’d expect Williams to have enough rounds in the bank to see him through to the victory. There’s certainly a real possibility of another rough fight and more cuts and point deductions that come along with that, but on April’s showing, neither man showed the capacity to really have the other in trouble with single shots and if you’re happy taking a high probability short priced bet, the fight to go the distance at 19/20 could be the safe option.
Williams on points at 15/8 is incidentally the same bet at the same price I selected last time the pair met. Hopefully this time around it proves to be more profitable and if it is, I don’t think I’m the only one who’d happily accept Smith v Williams III for the decider in 2018!
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