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George Groves and Callum Smith declared fit to fight in WBSS final

George Groves

By Jeff Aranow: Previously injured George Groves and Callum Smith have reportedly been declared physically fit to fight in the final of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) this summer. There was some concern whether Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) would be able to fight due to a left shoulder injury he suffered in his last fight against Chris Eubank Jr. in the semifinals of the WBSS on February 17.

Groves beat Eubank Jr. by a 12 round unanimous decision, but he suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the 12h. Groves fought with the injury almost the entire round.

A lot of boxing fans had worries about whether the 30-year-old Groves would receive a medical clearance before the end of the summer. The WBSS organizers had mentioned using Eubank Jr. as the backup option if Groves’ shoulder wasn’t healed in time. Thankfully, Groves has been given clearance and he’s expected to be ready to face the 6’3” Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) in the finals.

Smith, 28, suffered an elbow injury during a sparring session, and he’s had to deal with that problem. We can only hope that Smith and Groves are able to make it through training camp without their previous injuries flaring up on them.

There still isn’t a date or a venue for the WBSS finals, but it’s expected that those details will be announced soon.

“I’m a fast healer,” Groves said via RingTV. “I broke my jaw in May (of 2017, during a sixth-round stoppage of Fedor Chudinov) and I was back training soon after. I have fought two times since then. I keep myself in shape. I live a clean life and it all aids to recovery time.”

It’s a different story when a fighter suffers a shoulder injury than a jaw injury. Since fighters need their arms to throw and block punches, they can’t rush back and compete at less than 100 percent without risking further injury or a loss. If Groves is fully healthy and not just saying he is in order to fight, he should have a good chance of beating Callum Smith.

”We know about Smith, we have seen him for a long time and obviously I boxed is brother [Paul Smith],” Groves said. ”We are supremely confident of getting the win and getting a good win. The injury recovery has been fine, it is just like we said it would be. It was a dislocated shoulder that required surgery to stabilize the joint,” Groves said.

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It’s fortunate for Groves that the WBSS organizers were willing to wait for his shoulder to heal, as they wanted to replace him with Eubank Jr. to finish the tournament.

Groves had little problems in his first fight in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament in defeating the hard-hitting Jamie Cox by a 4th round knockout on October 14, 2017. Groves it Cox with a right to the body that sent him down for the count.

Smith, 28, defeated Nieky Holzken (14-1, 11 KOs) by a tougher than expected 12 round unanimous decision in the semifinals of the WBSS on February 24. Holzken was the replacement for Smith’s originally scheduled opponent Juergen Braehmer, who dropped out at the last minute due to an illness. Holzken surprisingly gave Smith a tough time with his speed, athleticism, movement and unorthodox style of fighting.

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Smith was never comfortable for a second against the tricky Holzken. Smith was lucky to have fought Holzken and not the southpaw Braehmer, who might have given him a boxing lesson had it been him that met him in the semifinals. Smith defeated Sweden’s Erik Skoglund in the quarterfinals in beating him by a 12 round unanimous decision last September.

World Boxing Council Diamond super middleweight champion Callum Smith will be challenging for a world title for the first time in his 6-year pro career, as he’s been working hard to get a title shot all these years. It was thought that Smith would get a crack before this but never happened. He’d been in the WBC mandatory position for several years without getting a title fight, and now it’s finally here.

”I am really happy it is going to be Groves rather than anyone else, it is the fight the fans want too,” Smith said about his WBSS finals fight.

Groves-Smith is a far better fight than Smith-Eubank Jr. If Smith beat Eubank Jr. to win the WBSS 168 lb. tournament, it would have delegitimized his victory in the eyes of many boxing fans because of how easily Chris Jr. was beaten in his last fight against Groves. The only way Smith would have escaped criticism in beating a replacement opponent in the finals is if he fought someone like Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, Jose Uzcategui, Tyron Zeuge or David Benavidez. Getting one of those talented fighters to step in as the replacement for Groves would have been all but impossible. Uzcategui did mention wanting to take the fight, but that was him talking and not his promoters.

If Groves is 100 percent healthy for the WBSS final, you must view him as the sure thing winner in this fight against the 6’3” Smith. The way that Groves looked beating Eubank Jr. and the way Callum Smith had to labor to victory over Holzken suggests that there could only be one winner and that would be Saint George. He’s fighting on a higher level than Smith right now, and he looks almost unbeatable.

The question is will Groves’ powerful left hand be ready by the finals? Groves’ jab is one of the best in the super middleweight division. Without his jab, Groves will be a one-armed fighter. He still has a very good chance of beating Smith with just his right hand alone, but it would turn the fight into a 50-50 type of affair than a situation where Groves is a clear favorite to get the ‘W’ on the night.

Smith does have the game changer with his powerful left hook. If he can hurt Groves with one of his lefts, he might be able to finish him off quickly the way he did in his stunning 1st round knockout win over Rocky Fielding in November 2015. There’s always the chance that Smith could catch Groves with one big shot early in the fight to put him away. I don’t think it’s likely though. If Smith doesn’t get Groves out of there in the first four rounds, his chances of winning will decrease as the rounds pass by. Smith doesn’t get a lot of knockouts past the first six rounds. He seems to lose power on his shots, tire and wind up having to utilize his boxing skills to get his wins. In that respect, Smith is very much like two of his brothers Paul Smith and Liam Smith. Both are dangerous punchers early on in their fights, but they tend to wear down once the fight reaches the midway point and they must find other ways to win. Callum’s stamina is no better than Paul and Liam’s. Between the two, Callum is more like Liam than he is Paul, who wears down badly in his fights. Part of the reason for that is Paul seems to be always carrying around a coat of extra fat on his frame that unable to take off for some reason. For a lot of fans, Groves and Callum’s last fights showed clearly the difference in talent between the two fighters. Before those two fights, boxing fans saw the Groves-Smith fight as a 50-50 toss-up. But after Groves and Smith’s semifinals fights against Eubank Jr. and Holzken, one got a better sense of how much better Saint George is than Callum. If Groves’ shoulder is 100 percent during the fight, it’s hard not to see him handily beating Smith in a one-sided fight. The Groves that beat Eubank Jr. last February will has his way with Smith in the finals.

Losing Groves would have devalued the WBSS tournament to the point where it wouldn’t have been watchable in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans. It’s great news for people that Groves will be able to face Smith in the finals. Promoter Kalle Sauerland was ready at one point to look for an alternative replacement for Groves. Thankfully, Kalle was willing to be patient to wait on Groves’ shoulder to heal up so that the tournament could have a sense of legitimacy.

Groves having the WBA Super World super middleweight title in his possession for the Smith fight makes the match a lot more interesting than is Callum had to fight a non-title holder replacement opponent. A world title on the line will make Groves-Smith fun to watch.

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