Mike Coppinger

Smith confident of victory in step-up fight against Escobedo

The name Lonnie Smith is sure to sound familiar to boxing fans.

“Lightning” Lonnie was the WBC 140-pound beltholder in the early 1990s, best known for his one-sided loss to Julio Cesar Chavez.

Years later, like Chavez, his son is a professional boxer. Just don’t associate the younger Smith with his father, whom he hasn’t spoken to in years.

Lonnie Smith, a 24-year-old junior lightweight, hopes to jump-start his own career on Saturday, when he takes a big step in class, facing Vicente Escobedo in Woodland, Calif., the main event of Solo Boxeo on Telefutura.

“I’m more than ready for it,” Smith told RingTV.com. “I believe that my trainers have groomed me to be ready for it. I believe this fight shouldn’t be a walk in the park, but it should be exactly what they taught me.”

Escobedo (24-3, 14 knockouts) stands to be the toughest test for Smith, who has faced no one in the caliber of Escobedo. Escobedo has faced well-known veterans such as Michael Katsidis, Roberto Guerrero and Rocky Juarez, but Smith isn’t concerned, confident he will have little problem with the 30-year-old Mexican-American from Woodland, Calif.

“Cutting me and then I can’t fight again quickly, that’s the only problem I see,” boasted Smith. “I mean if you don’t have confidence going into the ring you shouldn’t get in there.”

Smith (14-2-2, 10 knockouts) had a limited amateur career, fighting less than 75 bouts with headgear. He turned pro at 19 and suffered a couple of early career losses, but feels that he has grown since those setbacks, his last lost coming in 2007.

“I think I have improved tremendously,” said Smith. “My dedication and my ego was my greatest enemy and I believe those losses really helped separate myself from my ego. My ego was killing me. I dedicated myself to training now. I now know you win the fights in the gym.

“It takes hard work and dedication and a strong mind to keep going no matter what.”

Smith has yet to fight more than six rounds, yet will skip eight round bouts altogether, jumping to a 10 round bout, Smith felt it was best so he can get a title fight sooner rather than later.

“It was either eight rounds and take your career slow, or 10 rounds and get ready for a title fight,” said Smith. “After this fight I want to take on the WBC champ Takahiro Ao. I want that green belt around my waist.”

The all-action fighter from Las Vegas, Nev. is well known for his brawls. It’s something he relishes in the squared-circle, derived from growing up in a Mexican community.

“I was raised in the Hispanic culture and everybody in my gym fought that way so it rubbed off on me,” said the fighter known as “El Negro Mexicano” for his fighting ways. “I was trained by a Mexican coach for a long time so he taught me that.”

The nephew of light heavyweight great Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Smith is confident people will be talking about him come Monday – and the 130 pound division could certainly use a new face.

“I’m the underdog because of my stats,” said Smith. “I haven’t fought Robert Guerrero or Michael Katsidis. For him to come down to 130 it should be easy stomping grounds for him, but he’s going to find out that it’s not so easy.  When you come down in weight, you lose a little bit, you lose speed, you lose stamina.

“It’s a little bit more to get down in weight. We’re not relying on that, but I’m going to go 1000 percent, he doesn’t have enough defensive tactics and defensive game and won’t to the best of his abilities be able to win this fight.”

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