After months of waiting, the super middleweight World Boxing Super Series final takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia tomorrow with WBA champion George Groves defending his title against Liverpool’s Callum Smith to see who is the king of the 168 pounders.
It’s been a long road for both fighters with injuries and pull outs, but when the two meet at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, it will be for everything with the Muhammad Ali trophy as well as Ring magazine’s vacant super middleweight title on the line – having been free since Andre Ward moved up to light heavyweight and only being held by Joe Calzaghe prior to that.
In the semi finals, Groves comprehensively beat Chris Eubank Jr, jabbing masterfully and fighting when he needed to before late drama almost cost him the bout. He dislocated his left shoulder throwing a jab in the 12th round, but weathered the storm to come out on top.
In the other semi final Smith spent months training for German Jurgen Brahemer only for the southpaw to pull out with an illness and be replaced with orthodox Nieky Holzken. The late change of opponent clearly affected Smith and whilst he cruised to a decision win, he didn’t look his usual self.
Now 7 months later he gets a chance to rectify this and announce himself to the world, going from one of British boxing’s best kept secrets to a world star.
Smith is exceptionally tall for the weight, rangy but carries devastating power as WBA regular champion Rocky Fielding found out when the pair met back in 2015.
But against Groves he faces his hardest opponent yet. Tough, crafty with an exceptional jab and just as good power, few will forget the shellacking he gave the usually iron chinned Carl Froch before the bout was (unfairly) stopped by Howard Foster.
Given his size and length advantage you would think Smith’s best bet is to try and jab his way to a win, but given Groves’ left hand mastery, Smith may be best suited to not standing off and going for it.
We’ve seen Groves crack before; Froch was working his way back into the fight when Foster called an end to proceedings and he was stopped in devastating fashion by Froch in the rematch.
Obviously there needs to be some craft in how Smith goes about it, unlike Eubank Jr who thought wading in would be enough. Smith will likely cut the ring off, fight in spots and really push the pace when he needs to against an older Groves who has some serious mileage on the clock.
A broken jaw, dislocated shoulder and some wars on his record means that Groves is an old(er) 30-years-old and Smith will look to take advantage of that, will his body hold up to the punishment that Smith can dish out?
Another factor to take into account is Smith’s body punching; despite being a huge 6’3 inches the Scouser loves nothing more than using his long levers to crash hooks to the body of opponents from short and even mid range.
A sustained body attack, as seen last week in Anthony Joshua’s win over Alexander Povetkin, works wonders and is a two pronged offence in that it not only tires the opponent but can also get them to drop their hands and protect the body, thus leaving the head vulnerable.
Smith has stated that he plans on stopping Groves and his body punching will be key if this is the case.
Groves is by far the more experienced of the two when it comes to operating at a higher level and has also faced the better opposition between the two so will be able to call on a wealth of knowledge in the ring. As stated he can be crafty in there and will happily lead Smith around the ring using his jab to control the taller man if Smith allows.
Groves has also spoken of stopping his opponent but may be best suited to trying to box his way to a decision; his fight with Eubank Jr only became competitive when he decided to stop and trade with the former IBO champion but when he opted to box Eubank Jr struggled badly.
The fight will be a good one, with Smith looking to show he belongs at this level and explode onto the world scene. If he can catch Groves, then he has every chance of winning the fight and possibly even stopping the Londoner!
*all odds are subject to change