By Keith Idec
Callum Smith made it clear he could see the George Groves-Chris Eubank Jr. fight going either way.
Pressed to pick a winner, however, Smith went with Groves. The defending WBA super middleweight champion will battle Eubank, the IBO 168-pound champ, in a much-anticipated, 12-round domestic showdown Saturday night in Manchester, England.
Smith could fight the winner in the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight final June 2 at O2 Arena in London. Liverpool’s Smith will square off against Germany’s Juergen Braehmer in the second WBSS semifinal February 24 in Nuremberg, Germany.
“It really is a hard one to pick a winner,” Smith told Sky Sports regarding Groves-Eubank. “Probably, I would lean towards Groves. I wouldn’t like to put my life on it, to be honest with you, but I do lean towards Groves. Winning a lot of the early rounds, having some bad moments late in the fight, but I think he can hang on and win it on points.”
London’s Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) and Brighton’s Eubank (26-1, 20 KOs) both can punch, but Smith considers Groves the more skillful fighter. Groves, 29, has much more experience against top opposition, but he has been stopped twice by retired former champion Carl Froch.
Eubank, 28, has lost only a 12-round split decision to England’s Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), who won the WBO middleweight title a year after edging Eubank in November 2014. Saunders beat Eubank in a fight contested at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds.
“I think it’s whoever gets their tactics off right,” Smith said. “If Groves stays at [a] distance, uses his skill, uses his ability and doesn’t tire as much, then I think he wins it on points, maybe even hurts him. He is heavy-handed. If he does tire, I think Eubank takes over and it becomes an up-close fight, and then there is only one winner.”
The 27-year-old Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) is locked in on boxing Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs), but obviously will pay close attention to Groves-Eubank.
“I’m fully focused on Juergen Braehmer,” Smith said. “There is a lot of publicity around Groves and Eubank, but I’m trying to just concentrate on my own job and come through my fight.
“Of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t look at that fight, but I knew I had two tough fights to get there. And I’ve come through one against [Erik] Skoglund and I’ve got another one against Braehmer. I entered the tournament to become a world champion. I beat Braehmer and I get to fight for the world title in a domestic fight, so I really couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.