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Callum Smith and Nieky Holzken meet in WBSS semifinals tonight

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By Marcus Richardson: The semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament will continue tonight with unbeaten Callum Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) meeting up with alternate Nieky Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs) in a contest to determine the opponent to meet George Groves (28-2, 20 KOs0 in the finals of the tournament on June 2 at the O2 Arena in London, England.

(Photo credit: World Boxing Super Series)

Holzken is a prospect and not a contender. Holzken is facing a guy that even the most experienced fighters in the super middleweight division would have major problems with. For a prospect like Holzken to be fighting Smith, it doesn’t look good for him.

Smith-Holzken will be fighting it out tonight at the Nurnberger Versicherung Arena in Nuremburg, Germany. There could be a lot of vacant seats in the arena, as this venue was originally selected due to German fighter Juergen Braehmer scheduled to meet Smith. An unexpected illness caused the 39-year-old Braehmer to drop out of the tournament last week. The World Boxing Super Series organizers chose the 34-year-old Holzken as the replacement. To be sure, it’s an awful choice on their part, because Holzken is an unranked fighter with no experience against upper tier opposition and seemingly very little talent. The choice of opponent to replace Braehmer suggests that there wasn’t much thought by the WBSS organizers that there might be an illness or injury that would cause one of the main participants to drop out of the tournament.

Smith, 27, is trying to be as modest as possible about his chances of winning the fight tonight. Smith obviously knows this is a mismatch for him, but he’s not gloating about it and celebrating too much right now. He is a doing a bit of looking past Holzken, but he’s being respectful about it and giving the appearance that this is right and not a situation where he’s being given a rubber stamp to move to the finals of the WBSS.

“I came here to book a place in the final,” Callum Smith said. “I have had a really good camp and I have improved on stuff from the last fight and people will see a better performance from me. People will see that I am good enough to win the tournament. I just want to win, win well, and look good doing it,” Smith said.

It’s tough place for Smith to be in tonight. Even if he looks great in defeating the Holzken, who comes from the Netherlands, he’s not going to be given a tremendous amount of credit from the boxing fans. Holzken is a novice in the sport, and he hasn’t had the upbringing that Smith, Braehmer or George Groves had. Those fighters grew up in boxing. In Holzken’s case, he spent years as a kickboxer and he’s new to the sport of boxing. Like I said, the WBSS organizers don’t appear to have given much thought about the potential of one of the tournament participants dropping out due to an injury or illness.

“I always knew from the start of the tournament that there was a massive opportunity that George (Groves) would be waiting in the final,” Smith said. ”But, for now, I am fully focused on Nieky, and then I can talk more about Groves after the fight.”

Smith won his quarterfinals fight in the WBSS tournament last September in beating previously undefeated super middleweight contender Erik Skoglund (26-1, 12 KOs) on September 16 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. Smith won by the scores 116-112, 117-110 and 117-111. Smith fought well in the first 4 and last 4 rounds. He looked bored during the middle of the fight, perhaps due to how easy it was for him in earlier rounds. Skoglund took a great deal of punishment in the fight. It would have been a good idea for his corner to have pulled him out in the later rounds when Smith started to really hammer him with shots. Holzken’s corner needs to be cognizant of the fact that they can’t leave him out there for too long tonight against Smith, because he could take too much of a beating and get hurt. If looks like Holzken’s not going to be competitive in this fight, then his corner should do the right thing and pull him out early. The telltale signs will be there by round 3 whether Holzken has any chance of winning the fight.

Holzken was scheduled to fight on the undercard of Smith vs. Braehmer against Dmitri Chudinov. When Braehmer pulled out, the WBSS organizers moved Holzken into his place. It was an odd choice, as Chudinov has more experience than Holzken as the pro, and he probably would be a much better choice. Chudinov can punch, but he’s very slow-handed. Had the Holzken-Chudinov fight taken place, Chudinov likely would have won easily. He’s a guy with a lot of amateur experience unlike Holzken.

“Callum is a good fighter and respectful guy, but I am a big believer, and I believe I can get the victory. I am going to do my best to beat him and my best to win the whole tournament,” Holzken said.

Holzken sounds hopeful for tonight, but he’s going to need more than hope for him to beat Smith. He doesn’t have the right amount of talent and experience for him to do the job on Smith. It’s normal for weak opposition to be pulled in to serve as a replacement opponent, but it seems strange that a prospect would be used for that purpose rather than at least a journeyman that has been about the block a few times.

It won’t work for Holzken to box the 6’3″ Smith, as that’s been tried before and it’s always failed. About the only thing Holzken can do that will give him any kind of chance of victory is to go after Smith right away and swing for the fences and hope that he can knock him out. It would be a desperate move for Holzen to slug with Smith from the outset, but that’s the only chance he has of winning this fight.


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