Commentary

Terry shops for top fighters to prove his skill

Terry Smith knows he has to prove his competence before he can get in the ring with the top fighters. Until then, he'll keep shopping for other opponents that will help him elevate his career. Next up: Rob Calloway, writes Joe Tessitore.

Updated: August 8, 2007, 12:15 PM ET
By Joe Tessitore | Special to ESPN.com

If you happen to be walking through the Battlefield Mall in Springfield, Mo. this week be sure to say hello to the smiling guy from out of town.

He'll be easy to find. He won't be hanging out near the Piercing Pagodo, nor will he be testing samplers at Sephora. He's not too quirky like that. This guy will likely be happily strolling in and out of Champs and Finish Line. You may see him checking out the latest stud wannabe offerings at Abercrombie & Fitch. He won't have any shopping bags, he's not a buyer just a browser, but he will have acquired the friendliest face you've ever seen. Unless of course your're opposite him in the ring.

Terry Smith
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonTerry Smith is in the market for a top fighter to prove his credibility.
"I come from a big family, there were 13 of us, I'm just so used to being around a lot of people," heavyweight veteran Terry Smith told me. "My dad was in the military, so we moved a lot. I was always the new kid on the block growing up, the friendly one. I liked making friends, unless you pushed me. I have a space within where I can get along with anybody until you cross that line or push that button."

I don't think anyone at the Battlefield Mall plans to push those buttons this week. Not unless they want to end up like an Auntie Anne's Pretzel laying face down on the ground. Smith (30-2-1, 18 KOs) will be strolling through Battlefield the next few days, as he gets mentally set for his "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, Friday 9:30 pm ET) main event against Rob Calloway at Springfield's Expo Center.

"During fight week my trainer keeps me locked up in the hotel," Smith said. "Whatever city we are in I have to go to the mall. I don't buy anything, I just like to scope out what's new in stores."

What's new in the window display of his career is more frustration balanced by patience. Smith is a fringe contender. He has proven that he is god enough to give strong efforts against ranked title challengers (Jameel McCline and Clavin Brock), but not marketable enough or accomplished enough to land the title shot himself.

"I feel that some of the big fighters are avoiding me because I don't have the name, but yet I am a threat because I fight hard each and every time I go out," Smith said.

He's in that no-mans land of boxing. Maybe that will change. Based on his last fight alone it should.

Smith's win over Kelvin Davis this past May on FNF was one of the most exciting heavyweight fights of the year. It was back and forth action, each fighter constantly willing to exchange, and each fighter putting forth an effort that told you they knew their remaining careers depended on it. If our sport doesn't reward efforts like that then the system is flawed.

"I didn't get any credit for beating him. Everyone who has beaten me has. McCline went on to fight for a title, Brock went on to fight for a title," Smith said. "I didn't go through the Olympics; I have to grind out everything. I've had to pay my dues. I know that until I win that big fight nothing is going to be given to me. I want to know that I earned it."

At 36 years old, one would hope he would earn it sooner rather than later. In this current heavyweight circus, which has Evander Holyfield getting a title shot, and Wladimir Klitschko getting paid multi-millions for glorified sparring sessions, it would be nice to see Smith get his beak a little wet.

Instead his beak may get bruised. Calloway (63-7-1, 51 KOs) is a unique boxing story. On paper he should fall into the category of a Midwest circuit padded record product. On the national scene he would be an upper level heavyweight opponent; a guy who matchmakers can throw in there with bigger names to give you rounds but not give you any chance of an upset.

That may be how the script was supposed to read for St. Joseph, Missouri's 38-year-old, self-managed, working father of two. Yet that isn't how it has played out, nor is it necessarily reality. Calloway has broken from the mold, and may currently be at his very best.

He is a cruiserweight who has taken fights at heavyweight and hung in their tough, like he did in giving a strong effort against McCline. In fact, since that fight, he has won eight straight.

"Me and Terry Smith were in training camp one time together," Calloway recalled. "We sparred a little bit. He's just a big, strong guy, likes to press the fight. He's tough and he'll come to fight. I expect it to go 10 rounds. I'm going to box him and I expect to outpoint him over the 10-round distance."

"I know it's his backyard so I have to be the aggressor." Smith acknowledged. "I have to get up on points and make him come to me and then I can catch him."

If he does catch Calloway, then Smith may get a bigger date in a bigger city. He may be saying goodbye Battlefield Mall and hello Saks 5th Avenue.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Joe Tessitore has been the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and "Wednesday Night Fights" since 2002 and contributes a weekly boxing column to ESPN.com.

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