Interviewing Michael “Bully Boy” Smith

He’s the World Champion and World No. 1, after winning the 2023 World Championship, with 17 titles under his belt. Join SportsBoom’s voice of choice, Wade McElwain, as he grabs a chat with the one and only Michael “Bully Boy” Smith.

michael smith kissing the trophy
Wade McElwain

Written by: Wade McElwain

(Senior Sports Writer)

Edited by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2023-12-22

7 minutes read

No better feeling

It’s been a year of struggles and celebrations for Michael Smith, but “I feel good,” he says. “I’m still World Champion, the World Number One, so there’s no better feeling now we’re looking forward to the big one hopefully I’m going in there now to retain it.”

Much like Michael Jordan, 23 might just be Smith’s lucky number now. And with a star on the champ’s back and plans for his own Bar 23, he’s got every intention of ending this year strong…

…even if he is still a little disappointed that his original choice of walk-on music wasn’t as popular with the public. “I wanted Robin S ‘Show Me Love’,” he laughs, “[but] we did a poll on Twitter [and] Walk The Moon just rode away with it, so it stuck.”

Still, like so many sports pros, it’s become too integral to his career to ever change. “I think that song’s stuck with me now,” he says, explaining how people always excitedly call it “his song” whenever it comes on.

That’s powerful branding there, Michael.

quote icon

That’s when you’ve got to switch if you don’t, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble very quick

Number one athlete?

When asked about the next generation of players, Smith is clearly impressed. “Luke Littler, he won the Youth Worlds. He’s only 16 and he’s throwing 100 averages for fun,” he says. “He’s [only] gonna get better.”

It’s enough to cause the champ to reflect on his early days, when the prize pots weren’t so grand and kids hardly cared about darts. “Now you’re looking at a tour that’s worth 15 million a year they’re seeing us guys like, not very good athletes but yeah, we’re still earning the money.”

Smith is convinced that darts will “only gonna get bigger”, and while he’s dismissive of the label ‘athlete’, he does have to admit that the sport has its physical challenges…

“I just go in the practice room and do 4, 5, 6 hours a day. But it takes some doing. If you haven't played darts before and you stand there for an hour, your knee starts hurting, your elbow hurts.”

After joking that running a hundred metres might take him 10 minutes comparatively, Smith is quick to highlight that, whatever your sport of choice, “It’s about being the master of them”.

Of course, being the World's Number One isn’t without its pressure, but to Smith, it’s mostly water off a duck’s back…

“When we drive down to London on the 14th [I’ll] get the nerves then, but the minute John McDonald says my name, says ‘reigning defending champion’ it’ll go. That’s when the child leaves me and the game face comes on.”

“Just hearing your name,” he repeats, when asked how easy it is to switch to Mr Business mode. “When they shout ‘game on’ as well. That’s when you’ve got to switch if you don’t, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble very quick.”

quote icon

I played the full event with literally a two-and-a-half, three-inch hole in my leg.

Breaks and three-inch holes

Smith doesn’t deny that sometimes things don’t go your way, but he knows exactly how to get himself out of hot water when he’s feeling the heat. “You’ve gotta use them breaks very wisely,” he says. “If it means just going to the toilet, going for a little walk whatever suits you, it’s what you need to do.”

“Gather your thoughts and get ready for the next set,” he concludes.

Like so many other pros playing Ally Pally during the holiday season, Smith admits to often playing when under the weather. “I’m always ill when it comes to the Worlds. I always have flu or something,” he says.

But even worse for the champ is the changing seasons and a painful reminder of past hardships. “When I was 19, I slipped over in the ice and broke both my hands and my wrists,” he explains. “When the weather starts changing, I get really bad pains in my hands.”

Thankfully, the pain doesn’t usually last the month, but Smith’s horror stories don’t stop there…

“I’ve played a few times with gout, and then I once made the semis of the UK open [with] an abscess on my groin, but it had burst I played the full event with literally a two-and-a-half, three-inch hole in my leg.”

It’s hard not to cringe as the champ describes yoyo-ing back and forth between matches and the hospital to re-dress his wound. “You’ve just gotta go on,” he says, shrugging it off.

Can’t stop, nonstop

Being the World Champion doesn’t come without sacrifice. “It’s nonstop,” Smith says, going on to explain how even taking nearly a full year out, he’s only able to see his kids “about 30 times” in the year, despite living with them.

“I’m away six days a week,” he explains, “travelling, playing, and going back.”

Thankfully, Smith’s kids are “both mad on darts they love watching me play they’re the ones asking me when I’m going away again.” His relief is clear, especially compared to their younger years, when they weren’t so keen on him going.

“Luckily enough [with] phones you can bring the kids. You can still be there,” he says.

And it seems that despite his time away, the Bully Boy is certainly an inspiration to his children, who intend to follow in his footsteps… just not right away…

“They wanna play that [rugby] first, ‘cause that’s a short career. You finish up there about 33 [but] darts doesn’t have a limit, so you can come into that after. So that’s what their plan is.”

With “about four or five years practice,” Smith seems confident that anyone can compete in professional darts. “If your mind’s fit enough, you’re fit enough,” he says, when discussing the lack of any age limit on the sport, too.

Retirement, bobsleds, Jamaicans, and predictions

“He is the Michael Jordan of darts,” Smith says of Phil Taylor, who he believes should go ahead and enjoy his retirement. “He is the greatest ever and he deserves it.”

As the chat turns the corner towards Ally Pally, we learn that Smith might be one of the few pros who doesn’t tune out the wild shenanigans of the event. “I remember seeing once the Jamaican bobsled team running up and down the aisles where we were playing [with] a cardboard bobsled, dressed up in Lycra and everything,” he laughs. “There’s some weird [but] funny sights, as well.”

Despite the madness, it’s not enough to rock the champ’s resolve. “It’s funny you can have your giggle, but you’ve gotta focus up again. Stop laughing and get on with it.”

With nothing left to do besides learn his favourite order from Wagamama, Smith delivers his perspective on the games ahead, “It doesn’t matter who you get, you can have a tough game and it sets you up for the rest of the tournament. Or you can have an easy game.”

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.

More articles by this author