By: Ste Rowen
Callum Smith stopped George Groves in the 7th round in world class fashion, to become the new super middleweight WBA and Ring Magazine champion, as well as the first ever World Boxing Super Series super middleweight conqueror.
Tonight’s venue was the 10,000-capacity seat arena within Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City, the first official event of its kind held in Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, but the unusual venue didn’t change the approach that usually starts George’s bouts.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
As always seems to be the case in Groves’ fights, the two fighters made a tentative start, both pawing away with the jab, attempting to find a weak spot early.
Smith, in the immaculate white and silver shorts, looked comfortable firing off the counter. The 2nd saw both fighters land eye-catching shots but it seemed the WBA champion’s work behind the jab made the difference.
With just over 1:30 left of round 3 though, ‘Mundo’ landed a counter-right hand that shook Groves, 28-3 (20KOs), enough to back him up and, for a brief moment, look shaky. Smith, 24-0 (17KOs) was unable to properly capitalise and ‘The Saint’ regained his equilibrium and end the round relatively well. Though Smith landed a crowd-pleasing right hand at the beginning of the 4th, George boxed smartly from there.
Smith seemed undeterred however, when his fellow Brit landed, Callum kept his head up and continued to maneuverer forward; even when, with 18 seconds left of the 5th, ‘Mundo’s’ feet were swept from underneath him after the two fighter’s legs became entangled.
Into 6 and 7 – despite another awkward fall that saw Smith on the canvas – it felt as if the WBC ‘Diamond’ champion was getting into his groove. He wasn’t just landing pleasing shots now, the Liverpudlian was forcing the tournament’s #1 seed further and further back.
With less than 1:20 left of round 7 Smith landed an almighty left hook that shook ‘The Saint’ to the ropes, unable to reply as ‘Mundo’ continued to land until he was forced to drop to his knee. The referee stepped in to call a conclusion to proceedings just as Callum landed one last right hand. A clinical finish from a man who is no doubt tired of being called un-proven. You can no longer label him that anymore.
With legends like Naseem Hamed and Evander Holyfield already in the ring, Rashida Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, presented Callum with the WBSS trophy to top off a lifechanging night for Callum Smith.
Now the main man at 168lb, Smith acknowledged the significance of tonight’s win.
‘‘It’s been a long time coming…I know how good I am, and I know I was good enough to become a world champion and become the best on the planet. I’ve had a slow couple of years and people kind of forgot me and forgot how good I was…I’ve reminded people how good I am.’’
‘‘It was a good fight. I felt I was ahead at the time of the stoppage. I feel I was beating him at his own game…I always knew I had the power to finish him, but I showed I could live with him, with my boxing ability as well.’’
‘‘Credit to George Groves, he’s a great champion. It was an honour to share the ring with him…I’ve never been satisfied but I think you’ve seen tonight how much this means to me. A lifetime’s work all rolled into one.’’
Groves was complimentary to the victor post-fight,
‘‘It was just not meant to be, full credit to Callum…He caught me with a body shot in the end, which is very embarrassing for me. I’ve never been caught with a body shot in my life, so I can’t believe he did it.’’
‘‘We knew he could punch. He’s got a higher reach on me as well, so I didn’t wanna go 50-50 with him and trade. I was making him miss and making him pay. He got the decisive shot in the end.’’
And when asked about his shoulder, previously injured in the WBSS semi-final,
‘‘I’m not here to make excuses, the shoulder worked. Callum, to his credit, was the better man on the night, and for someone like me, that’s tough to say…I’m not retiring, I don’t know what’s next, but it’s been a dogged year.’’
Now for only the 3rd time in the belt’s history, the Ring Magazine has an owner, the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight champion, Callum Smith.
On the undercard…
A bearded Chris Eubank Jr moved to 27-2 (21KOs) with a 3rd round technical knockout of JJ McDonagh. The southpaw from Ireland, McDonagh, bizarrely fell to the canvas in the 1st round after receiving what looked like a routine left hook to the side of the head. The Irishman regained his senses, but it put Chris up on the cards immediately. Eubank looked to have the upper hand, despite it being competitive, JJ pulled out at the end of round 3, seemingly a shoulder injury. In the corner between rounds 3 and 4, Eubank could be heard shouting to the opposite corner, ‘‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it.’’ Unfortunately for those watching, he did.
‘‘It was a good fight while it lasted but the going got too tough for him, so he quit.’’ Chris said post-fight. JJ McDonagh joined the interview and got himself riled up when Chris told him he could’ve fought on, leading the Irishman to say, ‘‘I’ll fight you right now with one hand.’’ A strange offer from a man who 10 minutes earlier, literally had the opportunity to fight him with one hand.
The 29-year-old was the main event’s injury reserve and although the tournament hasn’t unfolded the way he predicted, Eubank will no doubt have gained some new fans after two entertaining scraps with WBSS quarterfinalist, Avni Yildrim and tonight’s loser, George Groves.
Darren Surtees, an undefeated welterweight from County Durham scored a 2nd round knockout over 8-4, Kane Baker to improve his own record to 9-0 (6KOs). Baker was dropped in round 2 by a short-left hand, and then Surtees unleashed a volley of punches which ended in a left-hook which sent Baker falling into the ropes and eventually onto the canvas. Darren landed a cheeky right hand for good measure whilst his foe was on the way down.
The only representative of Saudi Arabia on the card, super lightweight, Zuhayr Al Qahtani moved to London when he was 12 and today, he moved to 5-0 (0KOs) after earning a 4-round decision over late replacement, Mohamed Mahmoud, whose now lost all six of his professional fights.
Al Qahtani looked slick as he landed quick-handed combinations, however it was Mahmoud who ended the 1st brightest, landing occasionally but clearly hard enough to upset Zuhayr’s flow. The fight continued to be entertaining, if a little stop-and-start due to holding and messy breaks but ultimately, ‘The Arabian Warrior’s’ performance was good enough to get the win.
Cruiserweight, Mikael ‘The Beast’ Lawal, 7-0 (5KOs) heading into tonight, added another W and KO to his pro record with a 3rd round knockout of journeyman-in-the-making, Tamas Kozma. The Hungarian, Kozma made the better start of the two but in the 3rd, Lawal landed a chopping overhand right to the back of the head, dropping his opponent to the canvas and ending the night early.
Heavyweight Kem Ljungquist of Denmark made light work of Mourad Omar by stopping the Egyptian after just two rounds, to move to 6-0 (4KOs). The Danish southpaw unrelentingly stalked the 4-1 fighter throughout the proceedings and just as the bell rang for the beginning of the 3rd, Omar told the referee he’d had enough and stayed seated to put an end to the bout.