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George Groves vs. Callum Smith on Sept.29 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

George Groves

By Trevor McIntyre: George Groves will be defending his WBA Super World super middleweight title in two months from now on September 29 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia against unbeaten Callum Smith in the World Boxing Super Series final.

The news announcement of the date and location of the Smith vs. Groves fight is expected to take place this week.

Groves vs. Smith will be battling it out at the 10,000 seat King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the 29th of September, according to the Evening Standard. Having the fight staged in Jeddah is going to make it a hardship for many of Groves and Smith’s boxing fans to make the trek to get there. Jeddah is almost 4,000 miles from England. Travel expenses won’t be cheap for British fans to fly that far to see the Groves-Smith fight.

The more logical spot for the Groves v Smith fight would be in London in a large football stadium. The fight would likely bring in a tremendous crowd if it were staged in a stadium in the UK. At the very least, it would be giving Groves and Smith’s boxing fans a present by staging the fight where they can easily get to it. Staging the fight in Saudi Arabia is going to make it a hardship for their fans to travel there to see them. Some of their more prosperous fans will have the means and the desire to travel that far to see them, but for many the location of the fight will present a huge obstacle preventing them from seeing it live in person.

The WBSS organizers have made an odd choice in staging the Groves-Smith fight in Saudi Arabia of all places, as neither fighter’s fan bases are located in that country. This is obviously about dollars and cents. The site fee had to have been too good for the WBSS organizers to resist.

The Groves vs. Smith World Boxing Super Series final winner will be awarded the Muhammad Ali Trophy. The victory won’t mean that the Groves-Smith winner is the best fighter in the 168 pound weight class. It just means they’re the best fighter in the WBSS tournament. For the winner of the Groves-Smith fight to be considered the best fighter in the super middleweight division, they’re going to need to take on and beat the likes of Jose Uzcategui, David Benavidez, Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, Jessie Hart, Rocky Fielding, James DeGale and Caleb Plant. Fighting all of those guys will be totally unrealistic for the winner of the Groves vs. Smith fight to do, as it would take too much time to make the fights, and some of the fights might not be possible due to reluctant promoters not wanting to put their fighters at risk.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) is still rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder that he dislocated in his semifinals match in the World Boxing Super Series tournament against Chris Eubank Jr. on February 17 in Manchester, England. Groves, 30, suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the 12th round of that fight. Groves is supposed to be ready to fight by September 29. He’ll have tested his left shoulder out during the long two-month training camp for the Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) fight. With any luck, Groves will make it through training camp without suffering a setback with his surgically repaired left shoulder.

Right now, it’s impossible to know whether Groves will make it through training camp without reinjuring his shoulder or suffering some other type of injury. If Groves suffers another injury, it’s expected that WBSS alternate Eubank Jr. will be the one that faces Smith in the finals. That would be a big disappointment for boxing fans if that happens, as they don’t want to see Groves’ beaten opponent Eubank Jr. being given a spot in the finals against Smith.

The best scenario would be for a top fighter from the super middleweight division being selected to face Smith. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen. Eubank Jr. is the backup option. The real tragedy would be if both Groves and Smith suffer injuries during training camp that will make it impossible for them to fight on September 29. This would force the WBSS organizers to postpone the fight unless they want to make a total farce out of the tournament by selecting two beaten tournament fighters to face each other in the finals. The tournament would be a laughing stock if that were to happen.

Previously, the WBSS tournament organizers had planned on having the cruiserweight tournament final between Aleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev staged in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The plans were eventually changed with the Usyk-Gassiev fight being staged in Moscow, Russia.

The highly ranked Smith earned his spot in the WBSS finals in beating replacement opponent Nieky Holzken by a 12 round unanimous decision on February 24 in the semifinals fight in Nuremberg, Germany. Smith was previously scheduled to face German fighter Juergen Braehmer, but he pulled out of the fight the week of the fight due to illness. Smith still struggled to defeat Holzken despite the latter not having much experience in boxing. Holzken was the more athletic of the two fighters, and he was able to use his athleticism to make it a closer fight than it should have been.

Smith and Groves can’t be too pleased with the news of them having to face each other in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia instead of in front of their boxing fans in the UK. Fighting abroad rather than the UK seems senseless, but obviously money talks. It would have made more sense to have the Groves and Smith fight take place in a neutral venue in Cardiff, Wales. However, the money from Saudi Arabia was likely too hard for the WBSS organizers to resist. That’s the only logical explanation for staging the Smith v Groves fight there rather than in England. The fight would likely sellout the Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK. But if the site fee from Saudi Arena tops the money that could be made at the Manchester Arena, it helps explain why the fight is being staged there. The fight is happening at least. That’s the positive thing for boxing fans.

The September 29th date for the Groves vs. Smith isn’t a good one, as it takes place a week after the Anthony Joshua vs. Alexander Povetkin fight, which takes place on September 22 on Sky Box Office. It would have been better to have placed the Groves-Smith fight well beyond that date.

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