By Elliot Foster
Callum Smith has promised not to look past Nieky Holzken as he looks to book himself a showdown with George Groves.
The 27-year-old faces the undefeated Dutchman in the second super-middleweight semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Nuremberg, Germany, with a win setting up an all-British showdown against the Hammersmith man.
Smith had been set to come up against Jürgen Brähmer in a defence of the WBC Diamond crown, 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.
As the stand-in, Holzken, a former kickboxer who was most recently in action on February 3 and had been set to face Dmitrii Chudinov on the undercard to Smith’s tussle against Brähmer, will get the chance to secure a spot in the June 2 showpiece –– with the Muhammad Ali Trophy at stake –– against Groves at the O2 Arena in London.
Groves was named as the first of two finalists just last weekend after he outpointed Chris Eubank Jr. on all three scorecards at Manchester Arena to retain his Super WBA crown.
“It’s not really a big problem, making the switch of focus to the new opponent,” Smith said at the final press conference on Thursday. “Obviously, it’s not ideal, I had a training camp based on Jürgen Brähmer, but these things can happen in any sport at any level and especially in boxing.
“I’ve got to be prepared, I’ve got to be professional and do a job which is to win and book my place in the final and that still stands. Regardless of the opponent, I’m here to book my place in the final.”
Smith’s trainer Joe Gallagher expressed concerns that his man wouldn’t get a fair crack of the whip in Germany when he was pitted against Brähmer and had long called for the fight to happen on neutral ground.
Of course, with Brähmer now out and Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs) in, the fight is on neutral ground.
“I wasn’t happy with my performance against Erik Skoglund [in the quarter-final],” Smith added. “But I believe I’ve had a better camp this time around, I’ve improved on things that were poor in the last fight and I believe you’ll see a better performance from me and I’ll show everyone why I think I’m good enough to win this tournament and why I’m ranked the number two seed.
“I just want to perform the way I know I can and if I do that I can win well and look good doing it. I knew at the start of the tournament that there would be a massive possibility that George Groves would be waiting in the final with me still having two tough fights in the meantime to get there.
“That’s still the same and I’d be foolish to look past my semi-final opponent. I will make a statement. Not only to the boxing fans, but also to George Groves. I want to put on a good show on Saturday.
“I’ve still got a job to do, I’ve still got to win, be fully focused on Nieky and I can talk about George Groves on Sunday morning.”