Unbeaten prospect Dalton Smith seeking to improve having sparred Vergil Ortiz and others in the US

Dalton Smith might be one of the hottest prospects in UK boxing and the Steel City Gym in Sheffield where he trains might be riding high, but that does not mean he is operating in a comfort zone.

Instead, ahead of this weekend’s fight with Sam Maxwell in Sheffield, Smith has taken himself off to Los Angeles to learn and improve. Smith trained at Manny Robles’s gym and, among others, sparred top welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz.

Smith is trained by his father, Grant, and the busy Steel City Gym is also home to IBF featherweight champion Sunny Edwards but Dalton, formerly a top GB amateur who travelled extensively in the unpaid ranks, is motivated to improve and felt a spell in the USA would help.

“It was just, I had a bit of time off in camp and I just wanted to break it up a little bit,” Smith explained. “I knew I had 10-11 weeks before the fight and my dad [trainer Grant] said, ‘Why don’t you go over to LA and get some sparring?’ That’s where the best sparring is at the minute, and also Manny’s a great coach so it was good to go and pick some new stuff up.”

What is refreshing is that Smith is flying high, so is his coach, so is his gym, so he could have been complacent and stayed home, but he knows there is work to do to be better.

“Nobody’s the final product,” Dalton explained. “It’s good to go out and put yourself in different environments and in England, getting the sparring, sometimes you’ve got to pay and get people to travel and I just wanted to get over and get some different sparring, different styles, because I’m going to be fighting these Mexicans and these Americans later in my career.”

After their sparring, Smith acknowledged Ortiz on social media and Ortiz replied, “Thanks for the work bro.”

“It was good to spend a bit of time with Vergil Ortiz,” Smith, 14-0 with 10 stoppages, explained. “He’s a true professional and a nice guy, also and it was good to get some top sparring in with him. He’s one of the top guys. He’s good, I sparred really well with him and what was good for me was to spend time around him and see how they do things. He’s very professional, does everything right and with the guidance of his dad as well. It was good to spend time around him, he was really respectful and a top, top guy.” 

That kind of work also serves to illustrate that if Smith can work well with Ortiz, perhaps he has nothing to fear against the skilled Maxwell on Saturday.

“Exactly that,” Smith agreed. “I’m always confident and I know my level. I’ve sparred plenty of different styles, I’ve been around the world in the amateurs and I know I’m just as good to be at the top, but I’ve not been able to do it for a few years since I’ve been professional, so that was the aim, to go out there and get the top sparring.”

Maxwell is 17-1 as a pro with 11 stoppages. The 31-year-old challenger for Smith’s British and Commonwealth super-lightweight titles left Team GB just as Smith was starting, so their paths have not crossed a great deal.

Asked why Maxwell, Smith said: “Good rankings… he’s a good name, he’s experienced. I just think it’s a good fight at this stage of my career. He wants something I’ve got and I’m there to stop that. That’s all it is, it’s business.”

Maxwell went viral in 2019 with a last-ditch stoppage of Frenchman Sabri Sediri. Sediri was well up on the cards and not only coasting, but clowning his way to victory until Maxwell stunned him with 14 seconds left on a memorable night in Leicester.

“It was a great shot but like I say, it’s levels,” Smith said. “I think we got offered that [Sediri] fight but we took a harder fight before this one. Fair play to Sam, he pulled it out when he had to and got the win, so fair play to him.”

Smith is boxing in Sheffield for only the second time, having stopped Sam O’maison in six rounds there for the British title in August last year.