Callum Smith has taken time out from his preparations for his forthcoming world title fight with George Groves to lend his support to World Autism Awareness Day.
The aim of the World Autism Awareness Day is to highlight the hurdles that people with autism face daily. There are around 700,000 people living with the condition in the UK and efforts are being made to raise awareness, educate and help make the world a friendlier place for autistic people.
It’s a cause close to the hearts of the fighting Smith brothers from Liverpool – their sister Holly is autistic.
“She’s 17 and was diagnosed when she was two,” Callum explained. “She’s non-verbal and it’s had a big impact on the family. It became a 24/7 job for my mum and dad. She needs care all the time so it’s tough, but she’s a diamond of a kid. She has good and bad days, but she’s fun to be around.
“When she was first diagnosed we had no idea what it [autism] was. There is more and more awareness about it now.”
Each Smith – Paul, Stephen, Liam and Callum – fight with the word ‘Autism’ emblazoned across the back of their shorts. It’s a simple idea but one that’s proved effective.
“People come up and ask, ‘what’s autism?’ You explain it and it’s another person that understands,” said Callum. “We’ve got a big platform and with social media and stuff, we just try and get it out there as much as we can.
“What’s hard to understand about autism is that you could have five autistic people and every on of them could be completely different. The spectrum is so big.
“When we’d go out for meals when Holly was a kid, she’d see a drink on someone’s table and she’d pick it up. We’d have to explain that she didn’t know any different. Nowadays, I think more people would realise she’s autistic and know how to handle her.”
The Smith brothers have used their profile to go into schools and talk to children about autism. They’re also involved with their old amateur boxing club, The Rotunda, which has an autistic class every fortnight.
“Kids come into the gym and they can do whatever they want. It’s growing all the time with more and more people coming. They love it and the feedback we’re getting is really good.”
Along with helping to raise awareness about autism, Callum is currently preparing for the biggest fight of his career. He takes on George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series with the latter’s WBA super-middleweight title also on the line. The date is yet to be finalised but is expected to take place in July.