COULD LATE STARTER LIAM SMITH ultimately prove the highest achiever of the four fighting Smith brothers from Liverpool?
While super-middleweights Paul and Callum and super-feather Stephen were all inside the boxing gym at primary school - and later advanced to the rostrum at major international meets - football-daft Liam didn't embrace the Noble Art until he'd turned 14.
The lad they call 'Beefy' still managed to snare four national titles, including the 2008 English ABA Light-Welterweight gong, and a barrow load of international singlets.
Nevertheless, it was immediately evident that his aggressive two-fisted barrages and ferocious body punching would be better tailored to the harsher demands of the professional code.
Consequently, the light-middle needed to adjust the least of all the siblings when he vaulted to the paid sphere in October 2008.
Save for a four round draw with ex-Midland Area champ Terry Carruthers in his sixth gig, 26-year-old Liam has been peerless, racking up 18 wins (eight quick), British and Commonwealth titles and a world ranking with three of the four major sanctioning organisations.
It certainly wouldn't be a shock if he eclipses his brothers by becoming the first to lift a world title later this year.
"It wouldn't be fair to say who's the best," says coach Joe Gallagher who trains the quartet and has groomed Liam since his seventh paid start.
"All four are currently ranked inside the top six with one or another of the four major sanctioning organisations. They're all outstanding kids but Liam is possibly the most complete all-rounder.
"People don't realise just how good the kid is. He's sparred a heap of top contenders so he knows exactly where his talent stands.
"When I took Liam over to Los Angeles to spar top, top fighters at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym, his eyes lit up and he really performed. Same sparring (ex-European champion) Sergey Rabchenko and Eubank Jr.
"Trouble is, Liam knows he's head-and-shoulders above everybody else at domestic level. Now I'd like to see him develop that Scott Quigg attitude and mentality instead of messing about playing football and stuff."
The fighter modestly refuses to get drawn on grading himself in comparison to his brothers.
He says, "there's always plenty of banter flying around between us regarding other stuff - I think I'm better at the footy and I'm definitely the best at snooker and pool - but we never put ourselves above one another with the boxing. We all rate each other and give each other 100% support.
Liam enters 2015 fast closing in on his prime. Broad shouldered and a shade beneath 5ft 10in tall, he is at the top end of the 154lb weight division and, as coach Gallagher is so keen to emphasise, close to the full package technically.
He can box front foot or back, possesses a sharp hard jab, has natural movement and can peel off seamless combinations, up and down. Stone faced outside the ropes, he is a merciless executioner between.
Alas, top grade opposition who could help bridge the gap between top domestic and world class is proving extremely difficult to locate.
Smith will now face Poland's Robert Talarek over ten rounds as 'Beefy' begins his 2015 campaign at Liverpool's Echo Arena on Friday night.
"Above all, I want to be kept busy," he says.
"The last 12 weeks have been among the most frustrating of my career because I'm in easily the best shape physically that I've been in for my last three fights. I've sparred the Armenian 'Shark Attack' (Archak TerMeliksetian) over in Marbella and I've also done four 10-round spars and two eight-rounders with Chris Eubank Jr recently.
"I think I've earned the right to big fights. I've been calling out the likes of Carson Jones, Jack Culcay and Liam Williams but nothing's moving."
But promoter Frank Warren has a proven track record for delivering and counsels for patience, saying, "I've spoken to (IBF king Cornelius) Bundrage's people, but they're holding out for a fight with (Miguel) Cotto. Pity, 'cause that's a fight where - on form and focussed - I'd definitely fancy Liam to do the job.
"Believe me, he's not far off. I know it's hard, but he just needs to wait a little while longer. He'll definitely have another title fight on the Liverpool show in April, while we work something out. I honestly think he's the best of the four brothers."