George Groves and Callum Smith are ready to put it all on the line tomorrow night when they clash in the final of the World Boxing Super Series at super-middleweight. The venue has left many fans scratching their heads but possibly, one day, the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah will be right up there with the likes of Caesars Palace, Madison Square Garden or London’s York Hall.
That’s reasonably doubtful of course. The whole set-up indicates that some wealthy backers are shelling out big money to stage this event if the promoters are able to forego the amount of revenue generated by ticket sales at a UK venue for a fight of this size and expected interest. The main stadium in Saudi Arabia holds over 60,000 people for football matches, WWE events and whatever else they deign to be acceptable but the boxing will take place in a smaller 10,000 arena on the complex.
As for the fight itself, Groves is much more experienced on the world stage. Despite early promise, Smith has been waiting an eternity for his crack at a belt. It will come on Friday evening in the form of a WBA ‘Super’ strap and WBC ‘Diamond’ belt. Those two baubles have no real meaning in what is essentially a domestic grudge match between two excellent boxers.
George will look to utilise his quality jab and bring the right hand in behind. Groves can throw that shot straight or arc it behind the guard (just ask Callum’s brother Paul) and bring greater punch power to the table. A shoulder injury he sustained against Chris Eubank Jr in the semi-final remains a concern. Even though Groves has had surgery on it and it is perceived to be fixed, only in the heat of battle will Groves honestly know how it feels and whether it can stand up to rigorous testing.
Even though Groves is no small man, much of his good work will come from getting inside and working Smith towards the ropes. The battle for centre ring supremacy and setting the tempo will also be a key factor. Smith’s main assets are his size and reach. Coming in at 6’3” tall with huge levers for arms that can produce a telephone pole jab and strong right hand behind it, “Mundo” must use these tools to great effect. Smith made his name as a puncher on the way up and has dispatched 17 of his 24 victims (no draws or defeats) since turning pro in 2012.
If Groves is getting tagged coming in, then he has a problem. A possible tactic may be to draw Smith’s lead and counter off it; this is easier said than done at this level. Groves’ style means that he is constantly moving, feinting and keeping his opponents thinking. In past fights, this consistent stream of expended energy has led to a more rapid depletion of the gas tank.
I believe the fight will be tighter than many predict. If Groves can get into his rhythm, avoid any further injuries to the shoulder and stick to his game plan, then I would imagine he can win enough rounds to take home a decision. Smith will push him close though.
On the undercard, Chris Eubank Jr gets a run out against Mullingar’s JJ McDonagh. Eubank Jr is working towards a December grudge match with James DeGale and should win handily in this supporting “attraction”.