Sheffield home town boxer aims to thrill in his own city tonight

Dalton Smith. Picture: Andrew Roe
Dalton Smith. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Fighting around the world is one thing but Dalton Smith will be just as excited to compete back in Sheffield tonight.

Smith will be in action at the GB Boxing Championships at the EIS, looking to cap a fine year with another gold medal.

Dalton Smith

Dalton Smith

Success in the amateur ranks led the 19-year-old onto the GB boxing squad and means competition in his home town is all too rare.

“It’s about five or six years since I last fought in Sheffield,” he said. “I was about 13.

“It’ll be nice to get the people who support me there and put on a show for them.”

The GB Championships pit leading fighters from the Three Nations competition against a selected member of the GB squad.

Andy Murray and Dalton

Andy Murray and Dalton

Smith became the youngest member of the squad after being identified as a ‘podium potential’ fighter and has flourished since.

Splitting his time between the GB squad based at the EIS and as part of his home gym, Steel City ABC in Darnall, Smith’s life is boxing.

And with that, comes sacrifice.

“I first went into a gym when I was five so it’s been a good few years now,” he said.

Dalton in action

Dalton in action

“I had my first fight on my 11th birthday and I’ve never looked back.

“It’s very tough. From a very young age I’ve had to sacrifice not being with my friends, not doing what a normal kid does.

“I wouldn’t change anything, even though my career is still young. I’ve travelled the world since I was 12. People might think it’s a life of luxury but it’s hard.

“This is a one man sport. You do it yourself. I’m the only man who gets in the ring so it’s down to me.

Dalton Smith, with his dad Grant, after his win in Warsaw in the Feliks Stamm Memorial Tournament. Picture: Andrew Roe

Dalton Smith, with his dad Grant, after his win in Warsaw in the Feliks Stamm Memorial Tournament. Picture: Andrew Roe

“We don’t get much funding so it can he be hard to get by.

“My sponsors Ken Waddington Roofing and Basegreen Garage has been a massive help for me.”

Smith made the step up to senior level this year and success followed.

A debut in the British Lionhearts team in the World Series of Boxing plus golds in prestigious tournaments in Poland and Macedonia over the last few months.

He says his learning curve has only increased due to elite competition.

“All my fights are through the GB squad now,” he said. “Without that I would have experience of these top fights.

“Every time I go to a tournament, I’m learning. Every fight is against the elite, the number one from the country.

“I’m learning every day. I’m training with the GB squad eight days out of the month and I’m back in my gym all the rest of the time.

“Every time I’m in the gym I’m learning. I’m still young, still a baby in the game.

“It’s my first year as a senior so I’ve just got into the mix. I haven’t done too bad to be fair.

“I feel comfortable in it now.”

Speaking to The Star in a back room at Steel City ABC – where dad Grant is head coach – Smith certainly appears comfortable.

He has matured plenty over the last few years, both in and out of the ring.

Gone is the shy interviewee giving one and two word answers to questions, replaced by a confident young man determined to become one of the country’s top fighters.

Mixing with the elite has been good for him. He trains under Rob McCracken, the head coach of the GB squad and trainer of former world champion Carl Froch. McCracken has recently become the full time coach of IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who trains at the EIS alongside the amateur squad.

“Seeing Joshua training, how he puts himself about in the gym, it’s great,” Smith said.

“It’s great to have that knowledge from both Joshua and Rob.

“From being a kid I’ve seen Rob training Froch. He’s an idol and you learn plenty from him.”

Following Joshua into the paid ranks is far from being on Smith’s radar.

For him, becoming an Olympian at Tokyo 2020 is the goal.

He was given a taste of the Olympic lifestyle in the summer when he was selected to join Team GB as a training partner for the boxing squad.

And he believes the experience will stand him in good stead. “It was an unbelievable experience,” he said. “I’ve been there, I’ve seen it and I know what it takes to be an Olympic medalist.

“Hopefully I’ll qualify for Tokyo and I’ve got the experience to know what to do then. Hopefully it’ll be nothing new for me.

“I’m around the best fighters in the country all the time. They’re your friends who you’re training and travelling with.

“You get to see them out of their comfort zones and learn from how they handle it. Tokyo is the goal. I’m not rushing anything else.

“There’s been some good offers to turn pro but I’m not interested.

“I want to keep winning medals and get to Tokyo. I’ll only be 23 or so then so time is on my side.”

Selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia is another goal, as is completing his set of national titles by claiming the senior crown.

Helping him on the way would be a full time place on the GB squad, something he hopes will be handed to him in the new year.

He said: “Hopefully after Christmas I’ll be a podium boxer and it will be a full time job. It’s full time for me now but I’d be in there every day of the week, near enough. It’s Monday to Thursday, and living in accommodation with the other boxers, not in my own.

“They’ve virtually said it will happen but we’ll just wait and see.”

A even more pressing matter is his clash with Martin McDonagh in the 64kg final in Sheffield.

McDonagh was a late change opponent after Scotland’s Sean Spence withdrew. And Smith is expecting a tough night.

“He was in the nationals this year and he’s older than me,” Smith said. “I’ve seen him so I know what he’s all about. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I get another good win before Christmas and close out a good year.”