It’s no secret that certain fighters receive healthy amounts of favoritism in the sport of boxing and those looking from the outside in can find the road to success to be much more of a challenge. When taking a look at 25-year old junior lightweight hopeful Lonnie Smith, one realizes quickly that the uphill battle he faces is one that he has embraced in every way.
Sporting a 14-2-2 record with 10 knockouts, Smith’s temperament inside of the ring could be described as ‘Kill or be killed’. He has a crowd-pleasing style that he admits has worked against him in the past, and while he concedes that he is now working on his defense, his penchant for the early finish is something that will never leave him.
Smith grew up in Colorado, the son of former WBC junior welterweight champion Lonnie Sr. and boxing would soon consume his life. He eventually realized that a change was in order and found himself heading out West.
“I told my mother I wanted to be a world champ and she said ‘Let’s go to Las Vegas’,” Smith recalled. “It’s the boxing capital so we all packed up and my family moved me out here. I’ve been out here from the amateurs to the pros.”
Speaking during our conversation from the Fight Capital Gym on the West Side of town, Smith was moments away from beginning another exhausting workout with his trainer Skipper Kelp, whom he has been with since late last year. While admitting that Kelp, a former fighter and junior middleweight contender himself, has always shown him support, Smith didn’t realize how essential he would be in his life until they officially linked up.
“Skipper Kelp has always been there, since the beginning,” said Smith, who also used to work with Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. “He has always been around and I got word that he could really help me on my defense and I knew he was always there to encourage me from the beginning. I just feel it is the best fit for me. He’s always been there and now he’s there in the corner.”
Talking to Smith further, I realized that, like many pugilists, he is still a work in progress. That fact is further illustrated by taking a look at his record and the losses he suffered in his sixth and ninth fights, by way majority decision and first-round TKO, respectively, to Juan Castaneda Jr. and Mario Juarez.
Those defeats were big learning lessons to Smith and in defeat he found himself breaking a cherished promise that he had for himself since the early days of his career.
“When I first started out I told myself one thing; I wouldn’t lose before my fifteen fight. And if I ever did I would retire. Sometimes those promises that you make are broken but they are only broken because of the hard work that you put it in and if you don’t put the work in, that’s the result,” Smith stated.
“God put in front of me that I had to overcome that loss and continue and that’s what I did. Now, ever since that last loss I haven’t lost and I have taken control of my own career. And I’ve put everything in my own hands. Everything is going great. I have nine victories in a row. So, everything is beautiful now.”
Ever since the Juarez loss, Smith has seemed to have a different focus about his career, as evidenced by his current winning streak, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any kind of accolades have been bestowed upon him. Realizing as much, Smith called for a meaningful fight this past April against fringe-contender David Rodela.
Known to many because of his role as a sparring partner to Manny Pacquiao, Smith thought that scalping Rodela would open some eyes. Smith would end up pounding out a clear six-round decision over the 29-year old but was humbled to find out that little fanfare came along with the win.
“Maybe I thought David Rodela would bring me a little notoriety,” said Smith. “Whatever it did bring me, it brought me a second victory on Telefutura. They liked what I did on the first fight and they brought me back against Arcos. I thought David Rodela was a game fighter and I thought defeating him would bring me some kind of notoriety. But you don’t want to stop hustling hard in this game.”
The aforementioned second victory Smith brought up was a wild and woolly slugfest against Eduardo Arcos on July 29th at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The two men duked it out from the get-go but Smith’s precise punching and power would eventually wear his Sonora, Mexico foe down, as he opted to remain on his stool after the third round.
Smith would have loved to score a more convincing victory, but loved the hometown support he received on that night.
“To score that stoppage, a stoppage is great and to make somebody quit in the corner is great, but a knockout is a hundred times better and I wish he would have came back out for that fourth round. But I guess he didn’t have the heart to come back out there with me. It felt real good and it was even better because I was in my hometown and there were a lot of people that came to support me.”
Nicknamed ‘El Negro Mexicano’ or ‘The Black Mexican’ in English terms, Smith has adored himself to his fans because of his all-action style and willingness to leave everything in the ring. Quick fists and explosive power in each hand also add to the intrigue of his captivating style and he says it is something that he was born with.
“I have that machismo spirit in me,” Smith stated. “Every time I get hit it’s like I have to hit them three, four, more times because I want to show something back. Sometimes it can be a downfall and sometimes it can be a good thing. I just try to keep those hands moving as much as I can and trying to give more than I am taking.”
Smith was scheduled to fight this weekend against Arron Robinon in Fallon, Nevada but saw the bout fall through after his opponent came in overweight and subsequently pulled out of the contest. While it may have been a big blow at the moment, Smith is rolling with the punches as he only knows how and you can feel the optimism in his words.
“Unfortunately my fight fell through but I am looking forward to other fights very soon. I have had to fight my way to the top. There will be more to come eventually but I have to keep working hard. I have to stay under the radar but eventually I will be the person to control that radar for the other people coming up.”
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]