By: Ste Rowen
Friday sees the super middleweight version of the World Boxing Super Series reach its crescendo as, George Groves takes on Callum Smith for the WBA ‘Super’, WBC ‘Diamond’ and Ring Magazine belts, as well as the crowning jewel of the tournament, the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
On Wednesday afternoon, the two fighters went face to face for the penultimate time, at the final press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The WBA champion, Groves, was first up to speak,
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
‘‘We had a great camp in the end. It took a long time to get back to full fitness, but everything has gone as good as it possibly could…Arriving here (Saudi Arabia), it’s not as bad as you’re told back home…After such a long training camp, such a long time I can’t wait to fight. I can’t wait to collect some new belts and the Ali Trophy.’’
On this being the ‘pinnacle’ of his career,
‘‘I’ve been in some really big fights as a professional, numerous world title fights. Recently became the WBA champion, recently became ranked #1 in the division and what’s up for grabs this time round for me is the Ring Magazine belt and obviously the Ali trophy as well.’’
‘‘It’s gonna become a very prestigious tournament not only to win, but to be associated with. I’ll make sure that I win it and win it well.’’
Smith, 24-0 (17KOs), was in confident mood,
‘‘Every fighter starts boxing to become a world champion and I was no different. I turned professional and I believed my abilities were good enough to take me to the very top and Friday night I get a chance to be there.
A win over George puts me as the best super middleweight in the world, a world champion and Ring Magazine champion. It ticks a lot of boxes for me. There’s a lot at stake but that’s why I turned professional, for fights like these.’’
And his game plan to take home the heavy haul of titles on offer?
‘‘We’ll have to wait and see. I believe it’ll take a big performance. World championships don’t come easy, you don’t give it away. People have to earn them, and I understand that, and I’ve had a very good camp, pushed my body to the limits. Tactically I feel we worked well with Joe and stuff’s come off in sparring that we’ll feel the benefit of on the night.’’
Shane McGuigan, who also trains Josh Taylor and Luke Campbell was complimentary of his fighter’s opponent,
‘‘You’ve got a guy who’s 6ft or 5’11, and then you’ve got another guy who’s 6’3 and completely different styles, but that all backdates the whole way through training camp what we’re working on and we’ve sparred a lot of big tall guys. A lot of guys that are good at catching and counters on the inside, work the body well. All these things that Callum does very well, and I believe he’s a much better fighter than Chris Eubank Jr and George will have to be better on the night.’’
‘‘George has got the experience and I think the experience is gonna tell in this fight.’’
Callum’s coach, and 2015 Ring trainer of the year, Joe Gallagher was just as complimentary as Shane McGuigan when talking about the opposite corner,
‘‘The whole nation in the UK was really pleased for him when he became world champion, but this is now Callum Smith’s opportunity, his chance to shine. One he has to take with both hands. George has power in both hands, hits well, head and body, as does Callum Smith. Shane is on a good run of form at the moment with his stable, he had a great win last weekend with Luke Campbell…They’ll come bouncing into this fight…I feel a bit like Dillian Whyte here by saying, ‘Let’s Go Champ!’ You have that type of mentality.’’
‘‘We are fighting the ranked #1 fighter in the world so, when we beat George Groves we are beating the #1 without a question of a doubt…We’re not considered the 3rd or the 4th best but, we’re considered the number 1 best.’’
Friday’s final will be Groves’ 7th world title fight, losing three of those bouts. If you discount the WBC Diamond belt – which you should – it will be Smith’s first ever shot at world honours.
The main event ring walks are expected to take place at 9pm UK time/4pm Eastern.