Groves battles Smith in World Boxing Super Series final tonight
By Tim Royner: Callum Smith and George Groves will be competing tonight for the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight final. The year-long WBSS 168 pound tournament ends tonight. One of these two fine fighters will be crowned the winner of the tournament and given the prestigious Muhammad Ali Trophy, which some boxing fans recognize as meaning that fighter is the best in the division.
The 30-year-old Groves comes into the fight tonight as he WBA Super World super middleweight champion. He’d like to leave the tournament still with his belt, as he has other big fish to fry. Groves would like to possibly face James DeGale in a rematch if he doesn’t lose to Chris Eubank Jr. in their possible fight in 2018 or 2019.
Carl Froch, who holds two knockout wins over Groves, is surprisingly picking him to defeat the 28-year-old Smith (24-0, 17 KOs).
”I think it’s come a bit too soon for Smith, but, having said that, Groves’ shoulder injury is potentially a really bad one. People don’t normally come back the same after a dislocated shoulder injury,” former 168 pound champion Froch said to skysports.com. ”I’ll pick Groves on points, he has too much experience at world level.”
Froch is concerned about whether Groves’ surgically repaired left shoulder will hold up under the strain of having to battle hard against a younger fighter in Smith for 12 rounds. Groves injured the shoulder in his last fight against Chris Eubank Jr. seven months ago, and he’s coming back quickly after the injury without a tune-up. Shoulder injuries often take a considerable amount of time to come back from. For Groves to be returning after just seven months following surgery to his left shoulder, it’s risky for him to be coming back this soon. If Smith can turn this into a real brawl tonight in which Groves needs to fight in a strenuous way with both arms, he could reinjure his left shoulder and wind up losing.
Experience or lack thereof could be the real problem for Smith in his fight. Although Smith has looked good his entire career in accumulating a lot of quick knockouts in his fights, he’s done it against less than stellar opposition. In looking at Smith’s ring record, one gets he sense that his management didn’t want to take chances with him in the way that his brothers Paul Smith and Liam Smith were matched. Both of those fighters were put in tough early in their careers and found wanting. The same can be said about Callum’s other brother former two time world title challenger Stephen Smith. He’s been matched against some tough opposition in the last two years, and he’s lost every time he’s been stepped up. Callum is going to find out tonight if he has the ability to fight against high level opposition.
Former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew and Johnny Nelson are both picking Smith to beat Groves. Bellew sees Smith as being the fresher fighter of the two in tonight’s fight. Even Froch thinks that Groves has seen better days in his career. He feels that Groves was a better fighter physically years ago than he is now, but he feels his ring smarts have improved since he fought and beat him in 2013 and 2014. Former Smith victim Rocky Fielding is picking Groves to win the fight. Smith stopped Fielding in the 1st round three years ago in 2015. Fielding doesn’t care that he lost to Smith. He still is under the impression that Groves will have too much talent for Smith to handle in this fight.
”I see Smith winning and I think he comes through in really good fashion. He’s a young, fresh lion and Groves is maybe going in the other direction,” Bellew said to skysports.com in picking Callum to beat Groves.
Since Bellew is from the same Liverpool area as Callum, it’s difficult to take his prediction of the fight seriously. Selecting Smith as the winner isn’t that surprising by Bellew, but it makes you wonder if he’s picking him to win because he’s from Liverpool like him or if he truly believes that he has the talent to get the ‘W’ in this fight. By looking at the ring records of the two fighters, Groves would seem like he sure thing to get the victory tonight because of his advantage in experience. If Groves lacked the talent to win at the highest level, he would have been exposed by now against other fighters. The only guys that were able to beat Groves thus far are talented fighters in Froch and Badou Jack. Those guys are/were on another level than Smith. Groves didn’t lose to jack and Froch because he lacked talent. He lost to them because they had the ability to negate his boxing skills.
Smith will be dangerous in the early rounds against Groves. This will be part of the fight where Groves can slip on a banana skin if he makes the mistake of trying to slug with Smith. Callum has had early knockouts against these fighters: Rocky Fielding [TKO 1], Hadillah Mohoumadi [TKO 3], Rafael Sosa Pintos [TKO 3], Olegs Fedotovs [TKO 1], Abraham Hernandez [TKO 1], Tobias Webb [TKO 2], Kiril Psonko [TKO 1], Ryan Moore [TKO 1], Ruslan Pojonisevs [KO 1], Iain Jackson [RTD 2] and Tommy Tolon [TKO 1]. Smith has a lot of early knockouts, but he’s only stopped one fighter with talent during his career early in his fights in beating Rocky Fielding by a 1st round knockout in 2015. That doesn’t mean that Smith won’t be able to knockout Groves if he lands a big shot tonight, but it’s still highly unlikely to happen unless he catches him with the perfect shot to hurt him.
This fight will likely play out much like Groves’ last contest against Eubank Jr. Groves is going to be using his jab to keep Smith from getting close enough to land something big tonight, hoping that he can soften him up and set traps to try and hurt him with a right hand or left hook to the body. Groves will probably wait until the second half of the fight before he starts unloading on Smith with his power shots.
Chris Eubank Jr. (26-2, 20 KOs) will be fighting tonight against domestic level scraper JJ McDonagh (16-4, 8 KOs) in a 10 round confidence booster fight. It’s important that the 29-year-old Eubank Jr. get a win under his belt to get the rust out and to boost his confidence, given his recent 12 round unanimous decision loss to Groves last February in the World Boxing Super Series semifinal. Eubank Jr. is pleased in some respects in finishing strong in the 12th round in coming close to stopping Groves, but unfortunately he was aided by an injury that his opponent suffered in that round. Groves’ left shoulder came out of the socket while throwing a hard jab. Eubank Jr. takes credit for the injury, believing he helped cause it. However, Eubank Jr. looked so bad in the first 11 rounds that it’s not easy to give him any credit for having done well in the 12th. Eubank Jr. could be facing 2008 Olympic gold medalist/former IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale next. That’s why it’s important that Eubank Jr. looks good tonight in his showcase fight against the 32-year-old McDonagh. The Irish fighter McDonagh lost his last fight against Roy Sheehan by a three round decision last March. McDonagh hasn’t lost a lot of fights during his nine-year pro career, but when he does lose, it’s been to poor opposition for the most part.
Eubank Jr. needs to show signs of improvement in this fight for him to be taken seriously as a top contender in the super middleweight division. Eubank’s stock dropped off dramatically with his loss to Groves last February. The fight was not even close due to the talent gap between the two combatants. Eubank Jr. looked unskilled, and badly in need of a competent trainer.