WBSS Final Preview: George Groves vs. Callum Smith
By: Ste Rowen
This Friday night the super-middleweight World Boxing Super Series champion will be crowned as, ‘Saint’ George Groves goes up against Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith for the WBA ‘Super’ strap, the Muhammad Ali Trophy and, for only the 3rd time in 168lb history, the Ring Magazine title.
Groves 28-3 (20KOs), will finish the tournament as he started it, against English opposition. In the quarter finals, the Hammersmith native folded an unbeaten Jamie Cox in half with a brutal body shot in the 4th round. His next opponent was of course, the smooth talking, high-volume punching, Chris Eubank Jr.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Groves proved a level above that night as well, inside Manchester Arena, accelerating ahead on the score cards, making a highly touted Eubank, look very basic. Despite George dislocating his shoulder in the championship rounds, he continued to land heavy shots and move well enough to avoid a late onslaught from Jr.
The 30-year-old took a unanimous decision and, speaking in the Super Series’ pre-fight documentary, is now ready to defend his WBA ‘Super’ belt for a third time and claim his place in boxing history as the first super middleweight WBSS champion,
‘‘This will be the pinnacle of my career.’’
‘‘We’re supremely confident about this fight. I’ve had my eye on Callum Smith for years now. He was the favourite before the tournament started so there are a lot of people believe in his abilities to a certain degree. I’m looking forward to proving those people wrong.’’
As mentioned earlier, Groves dislocated his shoulder in the final stages of his action-packed semi-final victory back in February and had to have surgery to properly repair and recover, which pushed the original July date, for the final, back to late September. But the ‘Saint’ promised that he’s back and better than ever now,
‘‘It’s taken an awful lot of work to get it back, far more than I anticipated…We’re doing shoulder specific work but now we’re at the point where there’s nothing we can’t do which is the most important thing.’’
‘‘I am boxing better than ever, and I don’t see Callum posing a threat. I expect another comfortable win.’’
Smith, 24-0 (17KOs) has arguably had a trickier route to the final. He drew the unbeaten Swede, Erik Skoglund, 26-0 at the time, for his Echo Arena quarter final. It was unquestionably ‘Mundo’s’ biggest test to date as Skoglund was unafraid take Smith’s attack and land his own.
It proved costly as in the 11th round, Callum landed a fantastic counter-right hand which wobbled Erik and setup four consecutive punches without reply, forcing the Swede to take a knee. The only blot on that night was the wide scorecards that favoured Smith but didn’t do justice to his opponent’s performance.
It was then onto what was originally a final-four date with Juergen Braehmer but, in fight-week, the German veteran pulled out due to illness. In came the slightly left field injury reserve, former kick boxing world champion and 13-0 (10KOs), Nieky Holzken. The Dutchman, like Skoglund, wasn’t afraid of marching forward, unfortunately it was quite clear early on that Callum wasn’t too concerned with the power Nieky had on offer.
But, yet again Smith was taken the full 12 rounds, this time however, the dominant scorecards in favour of ‘Mundo’, matched the fight in the ring. The youngest of the Smith boxing family clearly recognises the magnitude of Friday’s event,
‘‘Every fight I’ve had so far has been leading to this.’’
‘‘I’ve always felt that when I’ve been up against it and needed to perform, I’ve always delivered and there’s no bigger time to deliver than in the World Boxing Super Series final against George Groves. I know Groves very well, I’ve watched him for a very long time.’’
‘‘He’s (Groves) got good strength, got a good jab, he’s heavy handed. Defensively, I don’t feel he’s the best, and there’s little, slight things I’ve seen over the years I feel I could take advantage of.’’
‘‘I just feel I’m a better fighter than anyone he’s fought in this tournament…I am looking forward to becoming a world champion.’’
Originally intended to be the venue for the cruiserweight final between Usyk and Gassiev, the 10,000-seat capacity arena within the King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah will host the all British super-middleweight bout. It’s first ever boxing event at the ‘Shining Jewel’ complex.
The winner on Friday will join Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward as the only men to claim the super middleweight Ring belt. Boxing this September has very much been the definition of ‘legacy fight’ month.