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Callum Smith wants David Benavidez next

George Groves

By Scott Gilfoid: Callum Smith is already targeting a unification fight against unbeaten WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez for his next match after winning the WBA Super World super middleweight, WBC Diamond and Ring title on Friday night in stopping George Groves in the 7th round of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight final at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Smith hurt Groves with a left hook that he nailed him with a fraction second after he threw a slow left-right. Groves wasn’t ready for the left hook counter after connecting with his right hand, and the shot wobbled him. Groves stumbled backwards at this point and was met with a furious assault from Smith, who was ready to empty out his gas tank to finish the fight. With Groves hurt, trapped in the corner and not thinking, Smith unloaded everything but the kitchen sink on him until he collapsed onto the canvas. The finisher was a left to the body. At this point, Smith got a little carried away and landed a right hand rabbit shot to the back of Groves’ head while he was down. If there was any doubt that Groves wasn’t going to get back up to his feet, that shot removed any. Groves was out of it and unable to get back up. The referee let Smith’s foul go unnoticed, although you can argue strongly that the referee should have given Groves five minutes to recover from the blow and let the fight continue. The initial knockdown should have counted, but he foul that came a second later while Groves was down should have led to a point deduction for Smith, a 5 minute recovery period for Groves, and potentially a disqualification in my opinion. If Groves was unable to continue fighting after the five minute rest period, then I think Smith should have been disqualified because of his punch to the back of his head while he was down on the canvas. That was two fouls.

The Groves-Smith fight was even after six rounds with the following scores: 57-57, 59-55 for Groves and 59-55 for Smith. Boxing News 24 had Groves ahead 59-55 at the time of the stoppage in round 7.

“If the fight can be made, I’m sure it would be a good one,” Smith said of wanting to fight Benavidez.

Smith might not have the popularity to get Benavidez to come over to the UK for his fight. We’re probably looking at Smith needing to travel to the U.S to face Benavidez in Las Vegas, Nevada. Benavidez has fought in Vegas in three out of his last four fights. At just 21, his all-out brawling style is already making him popular when fighting in that city. Benavidez is much more advanced at his age compared to where Callum Smith was seven years ago when he was 21 before he turned pro. When Smith was 21, he was still an amateur, and not the finished product that Benavidez is now.

There’s also a chance that the World Boxing Council could order the Smith vs. Benavidez fight, given that Smith is now the WBC super middleweight champion. However, that fight likely won’t happen soon due to Benavidez’s recent positive drug test. Of course, if Benavidez is stripped of his WBC belt and suspended, we probably won’t see him and Smith fighting anytime soon. The fight could still happen in the future, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to take place in 2018 or 2019.

The 21-year-old Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) would likely be interested in a unification fight against the 28-year-old Smith if it could be negotiated. That’s a big if, because Smith is promoted by Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, and you never know if he might make an offer that Benavidez and his management would have no interest in accepting. I mean, if Hearn offers Benavidez a flat fee that amounts to an 85-15 or 80-20 split in favor of Smith, then it obviously isn’t going to happen. Benavidez likely won’t accept anything less than a 50-50 deal, so Hearn would need to have his feet planted firmly on the ground when he starts negotiating that fight. Moreover, it’s unclear whether Benavidez’s management would be good with the idea of fighting on DAZN. If they have some kind of deal in place with one of the networks, then there’s going to be a big problem trying to put together a fight between Benavidez and Smith.

The 6’1 ½” Benavidez has the height and reach to handle the 6’3” Smith’s size, unlike the 5’11 ½” Groves, who struggled with his size the entire fight.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding Benavidez’s career right now after his positive drug test, Hearn should be thinking more about matching Callum against WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, WBA ‘regular’ champion Rocky Fielding or IBF champion Jose Uzcategui. Any of those guys would be perfect for Smith, especially Uzcategui and Ramirez. Those are good fights, as is Jesse Hart. Smith vs. Hart would be an excellent fight. It would be fun to see whether the stork-like Smith with his upright fighting stance would be able to hold up for 12 rounds in taking the tremendous uppercuts hat Hart likes to land. Personally, I can’t see Smith being able to handle more than two or three rounds of Hart’s power shots before he folds. Smith had a hard enough time as it was beating Groves, who looked like a 40-year-old fighter last Friday.

Smith can probably hold onto his WBA title for a long time if he chooses to milk it against the mostly lackluster contenders in the World Boxing Association top 15 rankings. The only guy currently that could give Smith problems is Chris Eubank Jr., who is ranked at #6. If Eubank Jr. wants to fight from the WBA title, then a fight between him and Smith would be a good one. Other than Eubank, the WBAs top 15 consists of fighters ike Fedor Chudinov, John Ryder, Vincent Feigenbutz, Andrey Sirotkin, Tyron Zeuge, Avni Yildirim, Zach Parker, Vladimir Shrishkin, Nadib Mohammedi, David Brophy, Jayde Mitchell, Mike Gavronski and Bilal Akkawy. In other words, no one that Smith – or any of the talented super middleweights in the division – would have any problems with. Smith might lose to Eubank Jr. though. What I saw of Smith last night against Groves, Eubank Jr. would have his number. Styles make fights, and Eubank Jr. is all wrong for the big and slow on his feet Smith. Eubank Jr’s reaction time to punches is much faster than Smith, and he’s a lot busier fighter.

It was the 28-year-old’s first world title attempt but he was in control for most of the fight, adding the Ring Magazine and Muhammad Ali Trophy to the WBA ‘Super’ strap.

Groves, 30, was embarrassed about being stopped by Smith. Groves made a mistake of throwing a right hand that Smith was able to time, and the rest is history. Groves was taken out quickly and sent on his way home without his WBA title that he’d waited so long to get.

“Embarrassing. I’ve never been hurt by a body shot before like this in my entire career,” Groves said to ITV Box Office afterwards. ”We knew he could punch, he has height and reach as well so I didn’t really want to trade with him. I was landing myself, but so was he and he got the finish. I’m going to have a good rest, I’m not retiring, it’s been a dogged year for me.”

Groves shouldn’t sit back too long in resting, because he doesn’t want to end up like Andy Lee sitting outside of the ring for such a long time that he can’t come back from it. Groves should rest for a month and then start training for his next fight. He needs to either push for a rematch with Smith, who he can definitely beat if he focuses on mostly jabbing, or go after one of the other champions in the division. Groves has the technical skills to beat Fielding, Uzcategui and Ramirez. Whether his management can setup fights with any of those fighters is unknown. Groves might need to become a mandatory to one of those champions for him to get a title shot, because he’s too dangerous for them.

“The shoulder looked alright and it felt alright. I’m not here to make excuses, it worked. Callum was the better man on the night,” Groves said.

The shoulder wasn’t the problem for Groves. It was his risk taking and poor decision making that caused him to lose the fight.If he had fought smart, he would have won.

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