“Vegas? I want to fill up Hillsborough…” - The Sheffield Wednesday story of boxer Dalton Smith
As soon as Dalton Smith sported a ‘We’re All Wednesday, Aren’t We’ headband on the way to the ring, he got hooked straight into the Sheffield Wednesday family…
For this month’s edition of our look into the list of famous Wednesdayites, we tracked down the exciting young boxing talent to talk about his SWFC story and the support that he’s had from both the club and fellow fans in the two years since his professional debut.
He’s very much nailed his colours to the mast in his hometown, but if it was up to his family, Smith may well have been donning red and white rather than the Owls’ blue and white…
“It’s a weird one,” he told The Star with a smile. “Most of my side of the family are United fans, so it was strange for me not to end up on the red side of the city.
“But my group of mates at school were the Wednesdayites, and it just kind of followed on from there really.
“I started going to more matches towards the end of secondary school, and then my good friend Alex went on to play for the team as well. It’s been great to follow the team but also watch the journey of a close mate moving up the ranks there.”
The Alex he speaks of is young Wednesday starlet, Alex Hunt who he’s been friends with for years. He’s even got the him down into the boxing gym to put him through his paces, but it turns out neither is really equipped to deal with the other’s sporting code.
“Alex comes down to the gym quite often, and I help him out… But after a bit he’ll say ‘Ah, I’m knackered. It’s hard this boxing!’
“But whenever I’ve gone to play football, I train different parts of my body, so I end up blowing out of my back end doing that,” he laughed.
“The level of fitness is completely different. Also, my technique at football isn’t the best… I used to play football when I was about five, I played that before boxing, but I was terrible. I think that’s why my dad pushed me towards the boxing!”
So while his trainer dad, Grant, played a bit of football growing up, his old man was quick to get his son away from the football field and into the ring – a decision that ultimately led to the 24-year-old signing a contract with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing in May 2019.
It’s going alright, you could say. With seven wins from seven bouts – six by knockout – since his pro debut against Luka Leskovic, Smith is most certainly on the right track, and his most recent victory over Ishmael Ellis proved once again that his star was on the rise.
And he’s not afraid to show his colours. Against Ismael he walked out wearing blue and white shorts with a ‘WAWAW’ headband across his brow, with more and more Wednesdayites getting behind the Woodhouse-raised fighter – especially after the club themselves offered their support.
The well wishes pour in prior to his fights followed by words of congratulations after his various victories - and he’s immensely grateful.
“It really took me by surprise,” he admits. “I remember after my debut a couple of years ago I went onto Twitter afterwards and it was crazy how much support I was getting.
“The support I get from the club and from the Wednesday fans is sometimes more than I get from the boxing side.
“It’s mad to see it, and it’s a bit overwhelming. I feel like I’m part of a family, and I didn’t expect a football club to get behind me like that, and the supporters as well. They’re showing me the support, so I feel like I need to do it for them.”
But a headband? Who’s idea was that?
He smiled as he explained, “It was actually my kitmaker, Suzi Wong… Obviously a lot of boxers follow football as well, so I asked her for a few ideas to get Wednesday in, and she said maybe I should try a headband. I think I pulled it off alright didn’t I? It didn’t look too bad!”
Like his football club, Smith admits that he’s missing the crowds at his fights and is looking forward to getting back to S6 to watch Wednesday and his mate, Hunt, but he’s got grander hopes for the future as well.
Those hopes include the Owls’ home ground, and he says he’s already mentioned it to famed promoter, Hearn.
It’s an exciting prospect, too…
“If we can bring those big nights and fight for a world title at Hillsborough then I’ll be happy!”, he says. “The main goals people say are ‘I want to fight in Vegas’ and ‘I want to be on the big shows’, but for me it’d be to fill out the Wednesday ground, get all the support there and hopefully win a world title there.
“I always say it to Eddie Hearn that in a few years’ time I’m going to have to be filling out Hillsborough. That’s the dream, that’s what we work hard for.
“But I’m looking forward to getting back to the ground again - it’s the buzz, it’s the atmosphere of being there, and I think everybody is dying to get back there and show their support for the club.”