Callum Smith to face John Ryder before bid to unify division

Callum Smith in action
Callum Smith in action

Callum Smith is craving a unification bout but insists that is second on his priority list below successfully defending his WBA super-middleweight title against John Ryder.

The 29-year-old will fight in his home city of Liverpool for the first time since becoming world champion as he makes the second defence of his crown at the M&S Bank Arena on November 23.

Smith has been linked with a high-profile showdown at Anfield next year, although he knows that prospect will vanish if he loses his belt to his domestic rival.

"The best version of me beats any super-middleweight on the planet," Smith (26-0, 19KOs) said at a press conference.

"There's talk of a massive 2020, but all that disappears if I slip up on November 23, so I'm fully motivated. I worked hard to become a world champion and I'm going to work even harder to keep it.

"I need to keep winning, I want to see how good I am and test myself against some of the biggest names in the division and the biggest names in boxing, and I can't do that if I lose to John Ryder.

"I want to clear up at super-middle, I want to try to unify the division, if I can do that then the next goal is to try to be undisputed."

David Benavidez regained the WBC title at 168lbs by knocking out Anthony Dirrell in Los Angeles on Saturday, while Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders hold the IBF and WBO straps respectively.

Smith added: "I'm in a division where there's four undefeated world champions and I believe I'm the best. If you've got a belt in my weight division then you're part of my plans, they're the fights that do motivate me.

"But I'm fully focused on November 23 and John Ryder. I don't just want to win, I want to win, do a good job and put on a big performance."

Smith toppled George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final 12 months ago to become world champion before stopping Hassan N'Dam in his first title defence at Madison Square Garden in June.

At 6ft 3in, Smith will boast a significant height and reach advantage over Ryder, who has won his last four fights via stoppage to become the WBA's mandatory challenger.

Ryder (28-4, 16KOs) said: "This is the real dream now, a world title fight. It's a fight I believe I can win.

"(Smith) is a great champion, he beat a great champion to become champion, he did not just win a vacant title, he went and beat a champion and he is the world number one. I want to test myself against the best."

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