Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz, Callum Smith vs. Hassan N’Dam Fight Previews
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions will bring their heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, to the United States to make his US debut and defend his titles against challenger Andy Ruiz Jr.
Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was originally scheduled to face Joshua, but a positive steroid test forced him to withdraw from the fight and allowed for Ruiz to step up and get this opportunity.
This fight card will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City and will be streamed live on DAZN.
The co-main event of the evening will be a WBA Super Middleweight Title fight between Callum Smith and Hassan’ N’Dam.
The undercard is also stacked and features a women’s lightweight unification title bout between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon. Chris Algieri, Tommy Coyle, Josh Kelly, Joshua Buatsi, and Diego Pacheco are just some of the contenders that will also be competing on the undercard.
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the night.
Callum Smith (25-0) vs. Hassan N’Dam (37-3); WBA Super Middleweight Title
Callum Smith is one of the best boxers out of the United Kingdom and Saturday will be the first time he fights in the United States.
Smith will have some noticeable physical advantages over N’Dam. He will have a large three and a half inch height advantage over N’Dam and he’s also six years younger than him. Both boxers have fought once in 2018 and twice in 2017.
Smith appears to be the more powerful puncher of the two. Smith has eighteen stoppages on his record in only twenty five fights while N’Dam has twenty one stoppages on his record in forty fights.
Smith has beaten the likes of George Groves, Nieky Holzken, Erik Skoglund, and Rocky Fielding. He has never been defeated as a professional.
N’Dam has lost to the likes of Peter Quillin, David Lemieux, and Ryoto Murata. He has beaten the likes of Martin Murray, Ryoto Murata, Curtis Stevens, Max Bursak, and Avtandil Khurtsidze.
Both boxers had successful amateur careers. Smith has success on the national level in Great Britain and N’Dam has competed in the 2004 and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
N’Dam has the ability to pull off an upset, as he did when he defeated Murray and Murata. But he’s coming up in weight to face a good puncher who’s significantly younger than him.
This fight is an excellent opportunity for Smith to impress the fans in the United States.
Anthony Joshua (22-0) vs. Andy Ruiz Jr.(32-1); IBF/WBA/WBO Heavyweight Title
Anthony Joshua holds three of the four widely recognized heavyweight titles. He’s considered to be one of the, if not the, best heavyweights in the world today.
However, Saturday will be the first time he’s fighting in the United States and it’s against an opponent very few believe has a chance at beating him.
Andy Ruiz is a good fighter, he only has one loss on his record and was a former Mexican National Champion as an amateur. However, Joshua is a boxer who has never been defeated and has stopped every single one of his opponents except one. And while Ruiz was a Mexican National Champion as an amateur Joshua won the Gold Medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Joshua will have a large four inch height advantage and a very large eight inch reach advantage. They are both twenty nine years old. Joshua fought twice in 2018 and twice in 2017. Ruiz fought once in 2019, twice in 2018, and did not fight in 2017.
Joshua has beaten the likes of Povetkin, Parker, Takam, Klitschko, Molina, Breazeale, Martin, and Whyte.
Ruiz has defeated the likes of Dimitrenko, Johnson, Austin, Liakhovich, Hamer, and Hanks. He has only been beaten by Joseph Parker.
it’s hard to imagine this fight going the full twelve rounds. Ruiz has boxing skills, but he’ll be significantly undersized against a man who’s skills are just as good.
This should be an easy victory for Joshua.
Smith Stops Eggington; Fitzgerald Decisions Fowler
By: Ste Rowen
In his first fight in Liverpool for almost three years, former WBO junior-middleweight champion, Liam Smith made easy work of Sam Eggington, stopping the former European welterweight champion in five rounds to claim the WBC ‘Silver’ belt and hopefully send a message to the rest of the 154lb division.
‘Beefy’ Smith took the front foot immediately and dominated the early rounds, sticking Eggington in reverse and a small cut that that opened up on Sam’s right eye was the early signal of Smith’s dominance. There was nothing fancy in Liam’s display but the speed of which he threw his punches and the power that went into them were clearly far too much for Eggington to keep the bout competitive. ‘The Savage’ seems to know no other way of fighting, whether on top or in adversity, Eggington wants to swing, wants to fight, but Smith was too much.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
It proved as in round five, with his opponent stuck in the corner, Smith landed power shot after power shot without reply until the referee decided enough was enough and ended the main event.
‘‘Shot wise I was good, accuracy wise I was sloppy at times, my footwork.’’ Smith, now 27-2-1 (15KOs) said post-fight. ‘‘I didn’t really have respect for Sam’s power, I put it down to that.
I had the worst camp ever, niggly injuries…Give me two fights, then give me anyone at the end of the year.’’
Having held a world title at 154lb and, losing out to Mexican Jaime Munguia for his old belt last year, the target for Liam Smith must be for another shot at the championship belts before the end of 2019.
Anthony Fowler vs. Scott Fitzgerald
A domestic dustup that promised much and certainly delivered saw Scott Fitzgerald drop Anthony Fowler en route to a split decision victory in a fantastic 10-round bout.
It slowly but surely turned into the biggest fight of the card, even overshadowing tonight’s main event, but when junior-middleweight and domestic rivals, Fowler and Fitzgerald entered the ring, the atmosphere in Liverpool was palpable.
It was an intriguing battle for the middle of the ring in the early rounds, with both fighters mirroring the other for punches thrown, although Fowler’s variety of shots seemed more likely to appeal to the judges. But Fowler, 9-0 (8KOs) heading into tonight, suffered through the middle rounds, appearing to tire as Scott began to get more efficient with his punches. Anthony unleashed a barrage of punches in the 9th that clearly affected Fitzgerald as Scott threw very little for the rest of the round.
As volume from the crowd increased, as did Fowler’s attack. The scouser began to have his hands low and felt more comfortable throwing but it wasn’t enough to get his opponent out in that particular round. With just over a minute to go of the 10th and final round, Fitzgerald unleashed a power shot selection that dropped Fowler, and as we were to find out, the 10-8 round was crucial. The final scorecards were,96-94 for Fowler and 95-94 (x2) for Fitzgerald.
Now 13-0 (9KOs) Scott spoke post-fight,
‘‘He’s a tough, big, strong man who just doesn’t stop coming forward… I could hit him with a bat he’d still keep going.
The fight with Ted (Cheeseman) can be made and after that, the rematch.’’
Fowler was magnanimous in defeat,
‘‘I went down, I wasn’t hurt but, fair play I don’t know how he was still standing in the 9th. I don’t like the kid, but he was the better man tonight.’’
David Price vs. Kash Ali
A heavyweight clash to warmup the crowd saw a truly bizarre conclusion as in the 5th round of David Price vs. Kash Ali, the two men toppled over together, and it appeared that Kash Ali bit David whilst they were on the canvas. The Liverpudlian, Price landed a heavy right hook which shook Ali, who entered the fight unbeaten as a pro, and forced him to go for the clinch which resulted in a full-blown tackle, and while Ali lay on top of Price, Kash bit David and hard enough to leave a mark on Price’s body. The official result was confirmed as victory for David Price via disqualification.
Price, now 24-6, spoke immediately after,
‘‘It’s a disappointing way to win. He was in the fight and lost his head, but I hurt him to the body…I don’t wanna share the ring with an animal like that again.
I’ve got the win and we move on. The winner of Lucas Browne and Dave Allen is a fight I’m definitely interested in.’’
Joe Hughes vs. Robbie Davies Jr
One of two super-lightweight title fights on tonight’s Liverpool card saw Joe Hughes and Robbie Davies Jr go hell-for-leather for the EBU European and British belts and in what turned into a close shoot-out over twelve rounds, Davies Jr emerged the winner, with the mixed final scorecards coming back as, 118-110 115-113 115-114 all for Davies.
Robbie, now moves to 18-1 (12KOs) and, with a swollen right eye, spoke post-fight,
‘‘Just grinded it out like you wouldn’t believe. He was like a pitbull…When you have the British and the European, people take notice.
I’m just hoping to push on for a world title now. I honestly don’t believe anyone can beat me domestically.’’
Fighting for the Commonwealth super-lightweight belt, southpaw Philip Bowes improved to 20-3 (3KOs) and defended the rainbow belt for the first time since taking ownership of the title in February with a unanimous decision victory over home fighter, Tom Farrell. Final scorecards were returned as, 118-110 118-111 117-112 all for Philip but it was a lively back-and-forth, if scrappy at times, but the more composed, and measured in his punches-fighter in ‘Quicksilver’ Bowes, saw him get the nod from the judges.
Craig Glover suffered a surprise knockout defeat at the hands of the now, 14-7 Vaclav Pejsar of the Czech Republic. Glover, who impressed in his last outing with a stoppage victory over Simon Vallily, hit the canvas twice en route to a second-round stoppage loss, shifting his pro record now to 9-2 (8KOs).
Returning to the ring for the first time since her surprise first pro-defeat, Natasha Jonas, scored a 60-54 decision victory over 7-2, Feriche Mashauri. Jonas said she’s aiming for the rematch with Viviane Obenauf next.
DAZN Boxing Preview: Smith vs. Eggington
By: Ste Rowen
On Saturday night at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena, former WBO junior-middleweight champion, Liam Smith returns to the ring for the first time since his 2018 attempt to regain that same world title. His opponent is Sam ‘Savage’ Eggington, a boxer who made his name at welterweight and has so far had an unsuccessful time at the weight class above.
Both fighters have fallen in and out of winning ways in their most recent bouts, and both have a point to prove; that they belong in contention at 154lb.
The two men have lost two of their last five bouts but the difference in the quality of opposition is blatant. In his previous five bouts ‘Beefy’ Smith, 26-2-1 (14KOs), has been defeated by Canelo Alvarez via a 9th round stoppage and dropped a decision to Jaime Munguia. But his victories, most notably include back-to-back wins over domestic rival, Liam Williams.
It’s a very different story for Eggington. ‘The Savage’, 24-5 (15KOs), lost a surprise split decision to Mohamed Mimoune, in Sam’s first defence of the WBU welterweight title. Two fights later, he came unstuck against Hassan Mwakinyo, 11-2 at the time, in a non-title bout at 154lb.
Unlike Saturday’s opponent, Eggington’s three victories in recent bouts aren’t exactly wins to shout home about either; Two stoppages and a 4-round decision win over opponents whose pro records combined, add up to 35-36-4 (20KOs).
But, speaking at the final press-conference on Thursday, Sam was well aware of his record compared to his opponent’s,
‘‘It don’t take a genius to know I’m the underdog in this fight. I quite like it like that. Nothing to lose everything to win. With having no pressure you can just enjoy your training much more.’’
Smith, fighting in Liverpool for the first time was just as humble when speaking,
‘‘Liverpool has so many good fighters, we don’t have enough of these big nights. Sam’s style and my style will always gel for a good fight, very competitive, but I feel I do everything better.’’
The headline bout tops a card that includes fellow Liverpudlians, heavyweight David Price up against the unbeaten Kash Ali, Tom Farrell vs. Phillip Bowes for the super-lightweight Commonwealth, and Robbie Davies Jr taking on Joe Hughes for the British and European super-lightweight straps.
But the most intriguing fight to look out for on the undercard will be…Anthony Fowler vs. Scott Fitzgerald.
It’s been heating up nicely in the past few weeks in a back-and-forth war of words on social media, and it boiled over at the press conference when domestic rivals, Anthony Fowler, 9-0 (8KOs) and Scott Fitzgerald, 12-0 (9KOs) went head-to-head.
And much like their Twitter personas, neither fighter was shy in coming forward. From ‘wet lettuce’ to ‘scared little boy’ to ‘geek’, the big talk went tit-for-tat with Scott speaking first,
‘‘Me and Tony both won medals within about half an hour of each other at the commonwealth so it’s gonna be a special fight…This is the first time I feel like I’ve tried. I’ve trained harder than anyone, ever. He’s delusional. A scammer.’’
Fowler, of Liverpool, responded with just as much venom,
‘‘You’re a scared little boy, son. Come Saturday night I’m gonna bounce my fist of your face…Look at me lad, I’m gonna punch your face in.
He’s done nothing in his life to worry me…I’m gonna jab his face off, make him overreach and I’m gonna punish him every time.’’
Both men won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth games when Fitzgerald fought at welterweight and Fowler up at middleweight. Both turning pro after the Glasgow games, it seemed inevitable that, after Scott decided to fight as a middle/junior-middleweight, that the two men would have to face each other before attempting to break the European scene. The WBA ‘International’ title will be on the line, but you suspect by the way the fight has built up that the two amateur standouts care a lot more about bragging rights that the belt on the line.
DAZN Boxing Preview: Bivol vs. Smith Jr., Hooker vs. LesPierre
By: William Holmes
The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York will be the host site for Saturday’s latest boxing offering by DAZN and will feature two separate title fights. The co-main event will be between Maurice Hooker and Mikkel LesPierre for the WBO Junior Welterweight Title and between Dmitry Bivol and Joe Smith Jr. for Bivol’s WBA Light Heavyweight Title.
The undercard also features some entertaining and competitive bout. Callum Johnson will meet Seanie Monaghan in the light heavyweight division, Sergey Kuzmin will meet Joey Dawejko in the heavyweight division, and Yamaguchi Falcao and Paul Mendez in the middleweight division. Prospects such as Otha Jones III and Junior Younan will also be featured.
Photo Credit: DAZN Boxing USA Twitter Account
The following is a preview of the two title fights on the card.
Maurice Hooker (25-0-3) vs. Mikkel LesPierre (21-0-1); WBO Junior Welterweight Title
Maurice Hooker exploded into the boxing scene when he won the WBO Junior Welterweight Title over Terry Flanagan at the Manchester Arena in Manchester.
He has defended the title once since then and looks to defend again against Mikkel LesPierre.
Hooker will have a three inch height advantage over LesPierre. He will also be five years younger than LesPierre, who is thirty four years old.
Both boxers have been relatively active recently. Hooker fought twice in 2018 and in 2017. LesPierre fought three times in 2018 and three times in 2017.
Both boxers had moderate success as an amateur. Hooker was a Dallas Regional Golden Gloves Champion and LesPierre competed as an amateur with moderate success.
Hooker has beaten the likes of Alex Saucedo, Terry Flanagan, Courtney Jackson, Cristobal Cruz, and Ty Barnett. He had draws with Darleys Perez, Abel Ramos, and Tyron Chatman.
LesPierre has beaten nobody of note. His biggest wins to date were against Gustavo David Vittori, Noel Murphy, and Mario Beltre.
This doesn’t appear to be a very competitive fight for Maurice Hooker. Les Pierre turned pro late and has never faced someone on Hooker’s level. Hooker should walk away with the win.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0) vs. Joe Smith Jr. (24-2); WBA Light Heavyweight Title
Dmitry Bivol is considered by many to be the best light heavyweight in the world. The former amateur Russian National Champion will face the heavy handed Joe Smith Jr.
Both boxers are in their prime with Bivol being 28 years old and Smith being 29 years old. Both boxers are also six feet tall. Bivol does have an edge in amateur experience as e was Russian National Champion and Smith was a New York Golden Gloves Champion.
Smith however, had a big edge in power as he had twenty stoppage victories while Bivol has eleven.
However, Bivol appears ready to face the power of Smith. He stated, “I am ready to fight. I hope Joe is ready too. We will make a great fight.”
Bivol has been the more active boxer of the two. Bivol fought three times in 2018 and four times in 2017. Smith only fought once in 2018, once in 2017, and three times in 2016.
Bivol has defeated the likes of Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba, Sullivan Barrera, Trent Broadhurst, Cedric Agnew, and Samuel Clarkson.
Smith has defeated the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Andrzej Fonfara, and Will Rosinsky. His losses were to Sullivan Barrera and Eddie Caminero.
Despite the fact Smith has been defeated before, the magnitude of this title fight is not lost on him. He recently stated, “This is what every fighter dreams of, to get a shot at a world title and this is my shot.”
It will be interesting to see how Bivol responds to a power shot from Smith, if he’s able to land one, but Bivol is a very good technical boxer and he should be able to walk away with the decision.
Joe Smith Jr. Plans to “Outwork” Bivol
By: Sean Crose
“Winning a World title would mean everything to me,” light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr says. “It’s everything I have worked towards my whole life. I cannot even express how I will feel when I win this title.” Smith, who will be facing WBA World Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol this Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, is aiming to grasp the holy grail of the professional boxer – a world title belt. “Dmitry is a great fighter,” Smith says of defending champ, Bivol, “very busy and active. My plan is to stay just as active and be busier than him, to outwork him. I plan to punch when he punches and make it a great fight.”
Smith made his mark by knocking out Bernard Hopkins in the great fighter’s final match back in December of 2016. In his next fight, however, Smith was bested by Sullivan Barrera via unanimous decision in July of 2017. Smith came back by knocking out Melvin Russel in June of last year. “The fans are in for a great show on Saturday,” Smith says.“They will see a new and improved Joe Smith Jr., the new Light-Heavyweight champion of the world.” As for Bivol, his last fight was a UD win over popular veteran, and former world champion, Jean Pascal last November in Atlantic City.
The Bivol-Smith battle will be broadcast live on the DAZN streaming service, and will be presented by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and Matchroom Boxing. “I would like to thank Joe DeGuardia, Star Boxing, DAZN and Matchroom for this opportunity,” says Smith. “I am looking forward to raising that belt, and finally reaching my dream of becoming a World champion.” Although the 24-2 Long Island native is going to have his hands full against the undefeated, 15-0, Bivol, he would insert himself into the heart of the highly competitive light heavyweight division should he once again score a considerable upset.
“Smith Jr’s clash with Bivol is part of a huge night of action at Turning Stone Resort Casino,” Matchroom Boxing states, “with a second mouthwatering World title fight on the bill in the shape of Maurice Hooker (25-0-3 17 KOs) defending his WBO World Super-Lightweight title against Brooklyn’s Mikkel LesPierre (21-0-1 10KOs).” Saturday will represent the 29 year old Smith’s first shot at a world title, though he’s fought for, and held the World Boxing Council International Light Heavyweight Title.
Dmitry Bivol On Joe Smith Jr: “This Is A Good Challenge For Me.”
By: Sean Crose
“He’s a strong guy,” WBA World Light-Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (15-0 11 KOs) says of Joe Smith Jr (24-2), his opponent this Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. “I saw his fight against Bernard Hopkins, and he’s really strong. He has the same age like me, he’s young. But he has some minus points like many fighters that I will use to my advantage for my win. He moves forward a lot. This is a good challenge for me, to stop him.” The bout, which is scheduled to go twelve rounds, will be Bivol’s third tittle defense since he won it against Rent Broadhurst back in 2017.
“I saw in his eyes when I met him,” Bivol says of Smtih, “he wanted my belt. And I’m glad, because only that way it can make a good fight…We are both of different styles. When two guys meet in the ring with different styles in boxing, it usually makes a good fight. I think it will be a good fight for boxing fans.” Smith took the fight world by storm back in late 2017 when he literally knocked the great Bernard Hopkins into retirement. Since that time, the Long Island native has been bested by Sullivan Barrera and has notched a knockout victory over Melvin Russell.
Bivol, who has bested the likes of Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba, Barrera, and Cedric Agnew, is one of the big names in a red hot light heavyweight division. Yet the Russian prefers to focus on the matter at hand. “To be honest,” he says, “I don’t think about the belt. I just think about who my opponent is, and what he can show me in the ring. All I think about is how I should beat him. In my sight, I feel like I should just beat him. Of course, the belt is good for history, but I only think about my opponent.” Promoter Matchroom Boxing has this to say of the fight:
“Bivol’s clash with Smith Jr. is part of a huge night of action at Turning Stone Resort Casino with a second mouthwatering World title fight on the bill in the shape of Maurice Hooker (25-0-3 17 KOs) defending his WBO World Super-Lightweight title against Brooklyn’s Mikkel LesPierre (21-0-1 10KOs).” Light heavyweights Sean Monaghan (29-2-0 17KOs) and Callum Johnson (17-1-0 12KOs) will also face off on the card, which will be aired live,courtesy the DAZN streaming service.
Golovkin Could Move Up to Super Middleweight to Face Champ Callum Smith
By: Michael Kane
Could Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) be following Canelo Alvarez to the super middleweight division?
According to Matchroom Promotions supremo Eddie Hearn that is a possibility.
Canelo (50-1-2, 34 KOs) faces WBA Regular champ Rocky Fielding (27-1,15 KOs) in New York on Dec 15th, in a debut fight at the 168 lbs division. Hearn has said talks have started about GGG taking on WBA Super champion Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs), potentially at the home of Liverpool FC, Anfield, next year.
If Smith doesn’t face GGG then there is talk of him moving to light heavyweight for a shot against one of the champions from that division.
“I’ve spoken to Tom Loeffler [‘GGG’s promoter] about it before,” Hearn told Sky Sports, “not since the press conference last week though
“That’s my No 1 choice for Callum Smith.
“I think it’s a fight that fills Anfield. It’s a great profile fight, it’s a great fight, full stop.
“Also, for Golovkin it gives him a chance to move up, do what ‘Canelo’ is doing, fight for the ‘Super’ title, and also for the ‘Ring’ magazine title at 168lbs.”
GGG may fancy a move up to super middleweight having competed at middleweight for so long and could set up another blockbuster with Canelo in the process, this time at super middleweight.
“If he [Golovkin] is even close to the mark in terms of weight at middleweight, it might be a good option,” Hearn continued.
“But whether he wants to take that risk before a possible third Canelo fight, I don’t know.”
Joe Smith Jr. Ponders Next Move After Beterbiev Fallout
By Jake Donovan
Less than a month ago, Joe Smith Jr. was in the favorable position of being able to choose between two offered title shots.
Today, he’s left to await his next move—but remaining ready for the first chance to return to the ring.
Photo Credit: Joe Smith Junior Twitter Account
The Long Island-based light heavyweight contender is left without a major fight for the moment, after watching a planned December showdown with unbeaten titlist Artur Beterbiev put on the back burner. A penciled-in December 15 clash at Madison Square Garden in support to reigning World middleweight king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s challenge of secondary super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding was scrapped when Beterbiev decided upon returning to training camp that he was best served to sit out the rest of 2018.
Beterbiev (13-0, 13KOs) would’ve been making his second title defense in the span of just over two months, having recently turned away previously unbeaten Callum Johnson in four rounds this past October in Chicago. However, the Canada-based Russian traded knockdowns with his challenger, still feeling lingering effects in early stages of training after having previously agreed to terms for a title defense versus Smith Jr.
While the decision is understandable from a safety aspect, it still leaves a hole in the schedule of Smith Jr. (24-2, 20KOs) who remains in training but not entirely sure of when he will return to the ring.
“It’s disappointing, but Joe always remains positive and hard at work in the gym, ready for anything,” Phil Capobianco, Smith Jr.’s manager told BoxingInsider.com. “We’re exploring several opportunities to figure out what’s the best fit for Joe.”
One such possibility was remaining on the Alvarez-Fielding undercard, taking a stay-busy fight against a yet-to-be-determined opponent while surveying the entire light heavyweight landscape. Aside from Beterbiev, all of the division’s major titlists have bouts scheduled between now and early February.
Among the lot is Dmitry Bivol, who will put his title and unbeaten record on the line versus former lineal champion Jean Pascal. The same opportunity was once available for Smith Jr., who was in advanced talks for the HBO-televised title fight in Atlantic City, some three hours from his hometown in Eastern Long Island.
Instead, Smith Jr. and his team agreed to terms for a shot at Beterbiev. The move was coupled with promoter Joe DeGuardia entering a three-fight co-promotional pact with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, who also co-promotes Beterbiev along with Yvon Michel and is the primary content provider for boxing on sports streaming platform DAZN USA.
Early whispers now have such a title fight taking place sometime in the 1st quarter of 2019, but doesn’t at all impact Smith Jr and DeGuardia’s aforementioned arrangement with Hearn. In fact, it leaves the door open to still fight in December, a desired route given he’s fought just once since a 10-round loss to Sullivan Barrera last July, scoring a 1st round knockout over Melvin Russell this past June in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The quick hit was just enough to shake off some rust, but nowhere the level of competition he’s enjoyed in recent years. Smith Jr. enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2016, scoring a massive upset in a 1st round knockout of Andrzej Fonfara live in primetime on NBC, then going on to send future Hall of Fame legend Bernard Hopkins into retirement with a 9th round knockout in their Dec. ’16 HBO headliner.
The hot streak opened up the possibility of challenging for a world title but settled on a crossroads bout with Barrera last July. Smith Jr. scored an early knockdown but suffered a broken jaw shortly thereafter, fighting through excruciating pain in dropping a decision.
Following his quick hit of Russell earlier this year, Smith Jr. and his team immediately began exploring title opportunities before landing on Beterbiev. The matchup still remains very much in play for the near future, but also leaves wiggle room for the 29-year old to consider a tune-up and then instead challenging the likes of Bivol, or the winners of the December 1 clash between lineal champ Adonis Stevenson and Oleksandr Gvozdyk or the title fight rematch between unbeaten titlist Eleider Alvarez and former champ Sergey Kovalev.
“We just want to make sure we’re not waiting around for Beterbiev and then he decides he doesn’t want the fight (at all),” suggest Capobianco. “If that’s the next big fight for Joe, we’ll be ready and willing. If not, there are a lot of big fights out there and we consider all of the (titleholders) in play.”
Boxing Insider Interview with Kieran Smith: Looking to Collect Titles
By: Michael Kane
The World Boxing Super Series took place in Glasgow on Saturday 3rd November. On a card that had several current and former champions appear there were also a few bouts that included some local boxers.
One of these boxers was Kieran Smith who stopped his opponent within a minute.
Photo Credit: MTK Global Facebook Page
Smith is now preparing for his biggest fight yet at the end of November at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow when he faces Peter McDonagh for the vacant WBC International Silver belt.
Boxing Insider spoke to Smith after his quick fire finish on Saturday against Pavol Garaj.
Smith was happy to be a part of a big show like WBSS and explains why it was a long night for him. Saturday was a warm up fight before he faces McDonagh.
“Yeah, it was amazing to be part of such a big event in Scotland even though it ended up a long night for me because I was live float and did not get on until after main event, and as you say yes was a warm up fight but got change of opponent on Tuesday and I treat everyone the same, I never overlook anyone… one punch can change your career in this game.
“I didnt know anything about my opponent apart from he had a kickboxing backround and I made sure I kept it that way of knowing nothing about him.”
Did Smith expect a stiffer test?
“I dont know about expecting more from him as I think that if I hit anyone with the shot that I hit him with then I think they would be in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately for him I timed his right hand and caught him while his rib cage was wide open.”
Having appeared on a massive show, there was only one highlight for Smith out with his own performance.
Smith said, “Highlight for me was the same as any boxing fan in the hydro last night… Josh Taylor’s performance. Taylor is the complete package.”
Looking ahead to his fight with McDonagh, Smith only sees one winner.
“I see the fight with me and Peter playing out with me outboxing him point blank.”
Smith has signed with MTK Global and he now sees the benefit of joining up with the management company, with his first-time shot. Smith explains why he is happy with his decision to join MTK.
“Yes definitely (happy). I’ve been waiting on a title shot and had a bit of an unfortunate period there for almost a year until I signed with MTK. Then as soon as they kicked things off in Scotland I knew big things were coming and thats exactly what they are proving. MTK and Danny Vaughan, my manager within MTK have been great with me and they are guiding me on the right path.”
Who inspired Smith to take up boxing as a youngster?
“I first got involved in boxing on holiday, I watched Hatton vs Tszyu and when I saw Hatton win that night it sent shivers down my spine. I have no similarities to Hatton with my boxing style but I think the thing that I loved about that fight, which I believe can take me a long way, was his grit and ability to dig deeper and deeper every round.”
Smith aims to keep winning and to compete for more titles.
“Target for the year ahead is simply to keep winning, keep building myself into a more complete fighter and keep pushing towards bigger title fights.”
Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr. Title Fight Targeted For December
By Jake Donovan
The biggest knock on Artur Beterbiev in recent years has been his criminally infrequent fight schedule. His team has taken note and is now making up for lost time.
The unbeaten light heavyweight titlist from Canada by way of Russia will make the second defense of his title in late December, in a development first reported by RDS Canada. Beterbiev’s promoter, Yvon Michel has revealed the defense will come versus New York’s Joe Smith, landing on either December 15 in New York City or December 22 in Atlantic City.
Several moving parts will dictate when exactly the 33-year old knockout will next fight. The good news is that either date puts Beterbiev (13-0, 13KOs) back in the ring less than three months after his most recent start, a 4th round knockout of Callum Johnson on October 6 in Chicago, Ill.
Photo Credit: Artur Beterbiev Twitter Account
“It is almost certain that Artur will fight against Joe Smith,” Michel told RDS CA on Monday. “What is less certain is (the exact date). One thing is for sure; (Beterbiev’s) next fight will take place in 2018.”
Sports streaming app DAZN USA will carry the event, regardless. Whether it’s on December 15 or December 22 depends almost entirely on the streaming service securing the rights to the December 15 showdown between secondary super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding and reigning World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
A press conference to formally announce the event—which will take place at Madison Square Garden in NYC—will be held on Wednesday in NYC. It has been widely speculated that DAZN will win the sweepstakes, although HBO—with whom Alvarez enjoyed an exclusive contact since 2014, but is now exiting the boxing business—very much remains a contender, in what could be (through its Pay-Per-View arm) its final boxing broadcast of a storied 45-year run as the industry leader.
Should DAZN win the sweepstakes, Beterbiev’s title defense will land as the chief support. Otherwise, he will headline a separate card in Atlantic City. Either scenario will mark the East Coast debut for the hard-hitting light heavyweight, who earlier this month traded knockdowns with Johnson before putting away the previously unbeaten Brit in a bout that served on the stateside debut of DAZN USA’s boxing series.
The win was Beterbiev’s first piece of ring action since a 12th round stoppage of Enrico Koelling last November in Fresno, California. He hadn’t fought in 11 months prior to that bout, having boxed just twice in each of the prior two years (2015 and 2016).
It’s been a frustrating past few years for the former amateur standout and two-time Russian Olympian, but an alignment with promoter Eddie Hearn—DAZN’s primary content provider—is already promising better days ahead.
“Artur Beterbiev (versus) Joe Smith Jnr for the IBF World title done for DAZN USA in December,” Hearn announced via his verified social media account on Monday. “(It’s) going to be a WAR! Date and venue announced very soon!”
Meanwhile, news of the title shot is still resonating with Smith since he was already training for another heavily rumored opportunity.
The full-time union worker and top-rated light heavyweight contender from Eastern Long Island was previously linked to a November 24 title challenge versus unbeaten Dmitry Bivol. That bout was due to headline on HBO, but is now just left as Bivol headlining the show although former champ Jean Pascal has since been suggested as the new opponent.
Regardless, it remains the first career title fight for Smith Jr. (24-2, 20KOs), who is best known in boxing circles for his knockout win over future Hall of Famer and retiring former two-division champ Bernard Hopkins in Dec. ’16. The feat came six months after he scored a shocking 1st round knockout of then top-rated contender Andrzej Fonfara, in a bout which aired live on free-to-air NBC in primetime.
The win over Hopkins was the first of two HBO appearances for Smith Jr., who seven months later returned to the network in a 10-round loss to perennial top contender Sullivan Barrera. The setback was not without its moral victory, as the now 29-year old New Yorker was celebrated for having fought through a broken Jaw for most of the fight.
Just one fight has since come from the healing process, a rust-shaking 1st round knockout of Melvin Russell this past June in Uncasville, Conn. It was enough to put him back in the title mix, not having to wait very long – or wasting any time in preparing for the life-changing opportunity.
“All I can tell you is that Joe Smith is training very hard,” Phil Capobianco, Smith’s manager told BoxingInsider.com on Monday. “He will definitely fight (for the title) before the end of the year.”
WBSS On DAZN Results: Smith Stops Groves
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.
WBSS: Groves vs. Smith Final Press Conference Quotes
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.
Groves and Smith Ready to Close Inaugural Ali Trophy Season in Style
By: Michael Kane
George Groves and Callum Smith spoke to the media ahead of their World Boxing Super Series final bout.
The Ali Trophy is up for grabs to end the inaugural middleweight season, delayed by a few months due to Groves suffering a shoulder injury.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
The bout between the two Englishman takes place in an unusual location, the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Groves is the current WBA Super World Champion, while Smith is the WBC Diamond title holder, the Ring magazine title will also be up for grabs.
Here is what the fighters had to say at the press conference:
“It’s great to finally be only a day or two away from the fight. We’ve had a great camp in the end. It took a long time to get back to full fitness, but we’re there now, and everything has gone as good as it possibly could. After such a long training camp and a long time since my last win, I can’t wait to fight and to collect some new belts and the Ali Trophy.
“I have been involved in some real big fights as a professional. I recently became WBA Super Champion and ranked number one in the division. Up for grabs for me this time around is the Ring Magazine belt, the WBC Diamond Championship and obviously the Ali Trophy as well.
“The tournament is only in year one, but everyone is extremely excited about it. It is a very prestigious thing to be associated with it, and I’m going to make sure I win it and win it well to stake my claim as the number one in the division.”
“It is a massive opportunity for me. Every fighter who starts boxing dreams of becoming a World Champion and I was no different. I turned professional and I believed my abilities were good enough to tell 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, and a World Champion and a Ring Magazine Champion. It ticks a lot of boxes for me this fight, there is a lot at stake and that’s why I turned professional, for fights like these. I’ excited. I’m in a good place. I feel good, I feel strong. I’m ready to do what I came here to do and that’s become a World Champion.”
Shane McGuigan (Groves coach):
“It’s very different (from Eubank Jr. fight). You’ve got a guy who’s 6 foot or 5’11 and another guy whose 6’3’’. Completely different styles and that has been reflected in our training camp.
“I believe Callum is a much better fighter than Eubank Jr. and George will have to be better on the night, but I’m very confident that we are going to come away with the win. George has got the experience and I think the experience is going to tell in this fight. Calum has been in this position for a very long time. He has waited for this opportunity so we are expecting the very best Callum Smith.”
Joe Gallagher (Smith coach):
“There’s not much really to be said here. You’ve got the number one and number two seed of the tournament meeting in the final. Everyone is well aware of George Groves. His attempts at World titles and becoming World Champion, for which I think the whole nation in the UK was really pleased for him.
“This is now Callum Smith’s opportunity. His chance to shine, and he’s now got to go take this opportunity with both hands. We’re excited and ready to go, and ready to take care of business on Friday night.”
Wilfried Sauerland (Hall of Fame Promoter):
“For us it is a big day on Friday when we come to the final of the first round of the World Boxing Super Series. We’ve had one final already in Moscow and on Friday it will be the final everybody has been looking forward to in the super middleweight division, one of the strongest divisions in boxing.
“On Friday, we have the two best super middleweights in he world fighting on Friday for this most prestigious trophy and I myself can’t wait to see this fight. That means something when, like me, you have seen thousands of fights. It will be a very special occasion.”
Fans in the UK can watch Groves vs Smith LIVE on ITV Box Office. Ringwalks for the final will be at 9.00 pm UK time. Registration is open at itvboxoffice.com.
Fans in the U.S. can watch LIVE on DAZN, the global sports streaming platform. To sign up for a one-month free trial, fans can visit DAZN.com or download the DAZN app to their preferred connected device.
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.
Boxing Insider Interview with Jez Smith: From Plumber to Boxer
By: Oliver McManus
Jez Smith is one of those fighters that as soon as you watch once, you can’t help but get hooked. Light-footed and heavy-handed, the 24 year old welterweight is primed to make an impact on the division and he’s got his immediate mind set on taking on his fellow unbeaten prospects – Connor Benn just one name that he’s targeting – and his career has, arguably, been slow to kick off especially after his all-out brawl with Macaulay McGowan back in 2016 but Jez, as he says himself, has rebuilt and feels ready for those titles whenever they come a-knocking.
I rang him up last week, when he was on a run, but he was kind enough to give me a half hour of his time when he got in so I won’t ramble on anymore, let’s just find out what he said –
Jez, great to speak to you, how did you first get into boxing?
I just followed my brother’s footsteps more than anything, my brother got bullied at school and went down the gym and because we were always close I was just around it and started doing it, really enjoyed it and realised I was good at and here I am.
Growing up with you and Mitch both boxing, was it always a good thing?
Yeah it was alright because we bounced off each other, we were always quite competitive so we’ve always wanted to be better than the other and that definitely helped.
At what point did you start considering boxing as a career?
To be honest I was doing it for fun, with the amateurs and I was winning a few tournaments, I represented England but when I got to senior level about 18 or 19, I went in the Senior ABA twice and I wasn’t really training full-time, I got beat in both years so I sat down and spoke to my Dad – Mitch was pro at the time – and I said “I’ll either take this seriously or forget about boxing”, I was either going to go in the army or take it on professionally and I’m glad I didn’t choose the army, I’ll tell you that!
Absolutely, how helpful was that amateur experience?
I think it’s good to have that pedigree purely because you’ve been about the game for a longer time, you know how it works, you’ve learnt the basics and you’ve learnt about other fighters. Don’t get me wrong it’s completely different to being professional but it’s good to have the background purely because it’s just extra experience.
Obviously we’re in the summer break from boxing, how do you stay busy? Are you still in the gym constantly?
I try to keep in the gym as much as I can, it is difficult because I’m not promoted by a big promoter and I’ve got to sell tickets, get sponsorships, I do still have to work so if I’m not in the gym, I will always run, I will always stay fit and keep my weight at a good level.
I don’t really blow up out of camp and go really heavy, I’m quite professional.
You announced a sponsor today so how much does that help?
Basically I’ve started working with Portobello PR who will be managing my exposure and will be managing my exposure and sponsors. They found that sponsor (BTR Podcast) and hopefully with them on board it will become a lot easier for me to train instead of working all the time.
I’m under no illusions, I will still have to work but if it means I can cut down my hours then obviously that will help, it is difficult at this stage where I’m ready for the titles but I’m not earning enough to afford to be able to stop working.
If you don’t mind me asking, what is your job?
I’m doing plumbing at the moment.
Is it easy to turn off from the boxing mind-set when you are plumbing then?
I’m always focussed on my boxing whether I’m working or not because it’s always in my mind, I want to do it full time and make a career out of it but obviously I need to be able to keep focussed at work to earn a living but it is so difficult. Only people who are not full time professionals will really understand but I know my potential if I was full-time boxing as opposed to where I’m at now and I still think I’m at that level where I should be fighting for titles. Hopefully Mo (Prior) can provide the goods and get me a title shot for September.
Talking of titles you were meant to fight for the Southern Area belt in June, how frustrating was it to hear that he’d pulled out?
Very frustrating, very frustrating, I’ve been waiting for my shot for a while now and I’ve fought a fair few journeyman. I had a good fight with Macaulay McGowan two years ago in 2016 and he was unbeaten fighter and I thought I’d have got more recognition after that fight, on TV on one of Frank (Warren)’s small shows and I thought I would have got more from that fight after the draw because it was a cracking scrap but nothing came about so I had to go back to the drawing board and I’m where I am now so hopefully I can start fighting for titles.
It was very frustrating with Louis Greene because I’d built back up to fighting for the Southern Area belt and he gave me that opportunity, he picked me as a voluntary defence and it was incredibly frustrating when I got the call because I was in good form, my weight was spot on, I’d got some good sparring and I was really looking forward to the fight.
Are you at the point, now, where you’d rather fight less but in more meaningful bouts or keep busy until those big fights come along?
That’s a tough one, to be fair, the thing is I wouldn’t mind being more active – I’d be very happy with that – but being on small hall shows you need to sell tickets and I’m at that stage where I’m not learning anything off these journeyman, they are just punch-bags. Not in a rude way but I would like better opponents so that the fans can see a better Jez Smith, fighting journeyman keeps me at the same level and you can’t see my full potential because, arguably, I drop down to their level at times.
I wouldn’t mind being active but I’m happy to wait and stay focused, stay professional, stay fit, I can learn more in sparring than I do fighting journeyman.
I actually remember watching your fight with McGowan, I thought you edged it, does it irritate you that you’ve not been able to kick on?
Oh massively Ollie, after that fight I thought that even the rematch would have been good because I had stepped up in weight for that fight so I wasn’t at my weight but I thought Frank would have used me a bit more but I didn’t get anything back.
I think things happen for a reason so it probably wasn’t my time but I believe, even though I had the hiccup with the Southern Area title, it is definitely my time now to kick on and start moving on.
Are you set on the Southern Area for now or if something like the WBO European or one of those titles came up, would you take it?
Listen, I’m a fighter, I’ll fight anyone and it doesn’t matter what route I go, I just want titles and I want to fight anyone who wants to fight and I’ll give it a good go. I’m not bothered what route, just get me the belts, get me in good fights with decent money.
Are you next out in September on the British Warriors show?
Yeah, September 29th at York Hall – what I’ve been told.
You do bring a fair few fans with you, does that add any extra pressure?
Nah not extra pressure, I like fighting in front of a lot of people and I’m only in small shows but I like having a lot of my fans there and, in general, a decent crowd because you get a good atmosphere and I thrive off that so I feel my performances get better as the crowd gets more excited. I look forward to when, one day, I’m in a big arena or somewhere like that.
Would you prefer to fight in an electric small hall or a big arena but with a relatively small crowd?
It don’t bother me as much, I want to be in the big shows and I’ll fight anywhere but it’s nice to be able to say that I’d have boxed at the O2, at Wembley because at the moment I’ve only been at York Hall, Camden and Harrow so I’ve only been on small shows so it would be nice to fight on a big card, in a big arena, but listen as long as I’m fighting in good fights, winning, I’m happy.
Biggest learning fight – Macaulay McGowan?
Without a doubt I learnt an awful lot from that fight, especially in being a professional, because like when I was a senior and I wasn’t taking it too seriously, this camp was probably the worst I’d ever had, I wasn’t eating the right food, I didn’t know what the right diet was and nothing was clicking. It was a massive wake-up call because I was stepping up in weight so I was just eating anything, not the right thing, so I’d put the weight on and if you’re driving a car, you wouldn’t put diesel in a petrol engine and that camp showed me it applies to boxing too, if you don’t diet right then you won’t perform even if you train to perfection.
Against an unbeaten fighter we both wanted it but I faded quite quickly although that proved to me and a lot of people that I could dig deep and against the journeyman beforehand it’s always hard to gauge where you’re actually at – even though you might think you know – so against an unbeaten fighter you can measure yourself up and it showed me I had it, I ticked a few boxes, I got a lot of heart, I can fight and I can dig deep.
I know it was a draw but did it, in a way, feel better than one of those wins against journeyman because of how much you learned?
Yeah I guess so, to be fair, gutted as I was that it was a draw I’ve got to think “it wasn’t a loss” and I haven’t lost yet. I took a lot from it, if I won I probably wouldn’t have taken as much as if it was a draw because I wouldn’t have changed anything and I wouldn’t have learnt so later on in my career I could have got caught out and I’m proving that now.
If you don’t mind I want to talk to you about Conor Benn, you were meant to fight Cedrick Peynaud, right?
The plan was, my manager asked his manager for the fight, and I got told he was up for it and a few days later I got called saying he didn’t want it anymore and I’m guessing he probably got paid a lot more for the rematch with Conor.
I could be wrong but I was told he got £8,000 for the first fight so make your own mind up but would you want a fight with Conor?
It’s a fight I would love, Ollie, if I got a call now and said “do you want the fight?”, I would jump right in, I believe I’m better than him, I’m stronger him, a better all-round fighter and I’ve got no disrespect for him, he’s doing well for himself, fighting on big Matchroom cards, getting TV but I just think I’m better than him and I want to fight good British fighters, he’s one of them!
And he’s a name, obviously, his dad was a hell of a fighter and it’s a fighter I really want and I think a lot of unbeaten Brits would want that fight. I want to see him step up a bit, too, that Peynaud fight, he should have beaten him comprehensively the first time round and if I’m hitting with the shots that Peynaud hit him with then he’s not getting back up.
There’s levels and I think I’m levels above him.
How much does being mentally strong impact on fight night?
Hugely, even when you’re in camp, doing the weight, training, mentally you’ve got to be strong to stay committed to eat properly, cut the weight. 100% important.
Do you find making weight easy?
I don’t find it too bad, I do it properly so I give myself eight weeks and I eat clean, I don’t cut massively and I do 10st 7lbs, 147lbs, quite easy. Good enough without being crazy.
Is there potential for you to go up a weight division in your career?
There was actually talk of me moving down so I don’t know about moving up because I hold my power and speed at welter so it’s definitely a possibility in the future but I’m very happy for now. I want to test myself first before making that decision, I think I’m at a good category for now.
In one year, in terms of titles, where would you like to be?
I’d like to be knocking on the door of British title, I just want to fight the best and whoever is in front of me and holding the titles then I’ll have to fight them.
I know you’re young so I don’t want to get you to think about retirement just yet but when you do hang up the gloves would you want to stay in the game?
No doubt, 100%, I’d like to start training people myself, I’d like to pick up a fair bit of knowledge whilst I’m fighting and you never stop learning so why not pass it on to some young kids in the game, I’d love that.
I’ll end on something random mate, if you were a crisp what flavour would you be?
Bloody hell… prawn cocktail, I reckon.
I thought smoky bacon!
SMOKY BACON? Nah, prawn cocktail because it’s my favourite because it’s my favourite, come up with a fancy reason for me Ollie when you write it.
Pressure’s on now for me to come up with a fancy reason, let’s just say it’s because Jez is sizzling in the ring… a bit like prawn cocktails if you get them on your lips for too long! In all seriousness though it was an absolute pleasure to speak to Jez and I’ve got no doubt he’s on his way to big things in this industry so jump on the bandwagon now because it’s going to be one hell of a ride.