Rod Smith is convinced he has a unique cornerman backing his bid for boxing fame - the ghost of his great grandad!
The Dronfield middleweight, 22, gets inspiration from the supernatural sidekick who created boxing interest across the world, in the 1920s.
He even feels the presence of bantamweight ‘Tiny’ Elijah Smith (1904-1967) when the going gets tough in the ring.
Smith, who boxes Poland’s Robert Studzinski at Ponds Forge on October 4, says Tiny became a world-rated boxer after performing in US venues including Madison Square Garden. Speaking on video at thestar.co.uk, the unbeaten rookie said: “I always believe he is in the ring with me. When it gets tough I know he’ll be there, behind my back pushing, me on. It has happened before, I have been in a tough fight and he has pulled me through, giving me extra.”
Smith is an avid student of 1920-30 boxing and believes old school sportsmen were tougher. He says some even smuggled concrete into their gloves. “It was a different generation. The training and food was different, you couldn’t go to the shop in the 1920s and get pasta! “Most styles in those days were just walk forward and have a good old brawl. Even today when you get hit by soft gloves, it hurts. So in those days getting hit by concrete it would make a lot of mess to your face.
“It is just knowing what they went through. It was a hard life in the 1920s and to think they did it with for pence, it just enthrals me.”
Rod’s dad (one-time amateur boxer also called Rod) started his son’s interest in the period. “Dad passed mementoes on to me” he explained.
His heroes are legendary American Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) and Sheffield lightweight Johnny Cuthbert (1904-1987) who had an incredible (Won 124 Lost 34 Drawn 17 = 175) record. “I like the belief they had in themselves in those days and the fact fights were toe-to-toe.”
The Dave Coldwell-promoted fighter who will be looking for his fourth pro win at Ponds Forge, had an 88 fight amateur career, winning 67 of them. He is taking on Studzinsk, who has lost 12 of 14 matches. “His wins have been KOs - he can bang” said Smith. “But I will pick him off with my jab, find my range and let it flow.”
The former Dronfield Henry Fanshawe schoolboy, sponsored by Chesterfield FC, claims he could compete with the likes of Adam Etches, Liam Cameron and Jez Wilson.