By Elliot Foster
Callum Smith has promised to up his game ahead of his all-British showdown against George Groves in the summer.
The WBC Diamond super-middleweight champion booked his place in the Ali Trophy showpiece against WBA Super titlist after beating late stand-in Nieky Holzken.
Smith had been set to come up against Jürgen Brähmer in the second World Boxing Super Series semi-final at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Nuremberg, Germany, but that clash was scrapped on Tuesday morning when it was revealed that the former two-time light-heavyweight king had the flu and was forced to withdraw from the contest.
Holzken, a former kickboxer, 34, who was most recently in action on February 3 and had been set to face Dmitrii Chudinov –– who beat Sergey Khomitsky in the end –– on the undercard to Smith’s tussle against Brähmer, but he was drafted in to face ‘Mundo’.
And Smith was happy to focus on what’s next after getting a decision on all three judges’ cards, by margins of 118-110 and 117-111 twice, to book his place in the last fight of the 168-pound tournament.
“I didn’t really make the statement that I wanted to in the fight, but I did what I went there to do and that was to book my place in the final,” he said. “That was the main objective, regardless of who was in the other corner.
“There was a lot of pressure on me to book my place in the final and it’s job done. I wasn’t prepared to take any chances, I boxed well, used my jab and stuck to the basics.”
Groves’ clash with the 27-year-old is set for June 2 at the O2 Arena in London –– but Comosa AG officials are sweating on the availability of the Hammersmith man for that date after he dislocated his left shoulder in the final of 12 rounds in his unanimous decision win over Chris Eubank Jr. at Manchester Arena recently.
“I’m now in the final against George Groves, which is a massive fight and one that I’ve wanted since the tournament was mentioned.
“It feels good to finally be getting a world title fight –– I turned professional to become a world champion –– and I’m fighting in a huge fight in England, at home. It’s what dreams are made of and I really like my chances in that fight.
“I think it’s a good fight, George is a good fighter, but I believe that on my day I’m the best super-middleweight in the world, but I’ll have to improve on this performance and I’m looking forward to the final.”
The final, between the number one and two seeds in the tournament, could be pushed back, given that Smith complained about sore hands after the fight and that Groves has yet to issue a full update regarding the injury to his shoulder, but official confirmation of that decision is expected in due course.