Liam Smith eyeing fight against Zhanibek Alimkhanuly

LIAM Smith is still hungry to become a world champion again.

The Liverpudlian was at his very best defeating Chris Eubank Jr four months ago and face his middleweight again in a rematch on July 1.

No titles are on offer, instead it’s bragging rights up for grabs and Eubank will be keen to level up their rivalry at Manchester Arena.

It has been eight years since Smith won his only world title to date, at super-welterweight. His win over Apollo Thompson was backed up by two routine defences. His third was a far greater test in the shape of Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican inflicted the first loss on Smith’s record in Texas after he was dropped by a body shot in the ninth round. The reign of ‘Beefy’ lasted 11 months.

There have been a dozen fights since then for Smith resulting in a 10-2 winning record. His second career defeat came in 2018 against another Mexican Jaime Munguia. The third was the most controversial losing on points to Magomed Kurbanov in Russia two years ago, a fight many believed the Brit had done enough to win. French 154lb fighter Michel Soro suffered a similar, arguably greater, injustice in Ekaterinburg earlier this month.

Smith has continuously shrugged off the losses and came back with impressive wins against the likes of Liam Williams, Anthony Fowler, Jessie Vargas, and Eubank Jr.

The 34-year-old craves another world title opportunity and has his eye on the middleweight strap held by Zhanibek Alimkhanuly.

“One of the parts I’m gutted over – why I want to be world champion again – the world title was won and probably put on top of the washing basket. I just didn’t cherish being world champion,” he told Sky Sports.

“I didn’t know how big it was. That’s why I’m desperate, I’d love to be world champion again. Because I’d cherish every bit of it. I know what it means.”

The Kazakh would be every bit the test that Munguia was and a stiffer one than Kurbanov, but Smith appears to be improving and has never been one to lack self-belief.

“He’s not really high risk, low reward because the reward is his world title,” he said.

“The Denzel Bentley fight has brought [Alimkhanuly] down a peg, but still a very good fight. I’ve known of him for a bit, I watched him in the Olympics, saw him beat [Anthony] Fowler in the Olympics. He’s still only had 13 fights, a good fighter.”

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