By Keith Idec
George Groves wasn’t particularly impressed while watching Callum Smith secure his spot in their World Boxing Super Series final.
England’s Groves sat ringside Saturday night to watch his British rival fend off a tougher-than-anticipated challenge from late replacement Nieky Holzken in their WBSS super middleweight semifinal in Nuremberg, Germany. Liverpool’s Smith won by large margins on all three scorecards (118-110, 117-111, 117-111), but he often had difficulty dealing with Holzken’s right hand and was forced to hold the former kickboxing champion several times during their 12-rounder.
Smith still advanced to the WBSS 168-pound final, which is scheduled for June 2 at O2 Arena in London, Groves’ hometown.
“To be honest, it wasn’t the best Callum Smith I’ve seen before,” Groves said in the ring once Smith was announced as the winner. “I thought he was a little flat, but I know he’s had an up-and-down week. He has prepared for another opponent. I’m sure for him tonight was about just going in and getting the job done, which he did. He won convincingly enough. But, you know, it’s exciting to see your opponent fight live. I cannot wait to get back in the gym and prepare for this final.”
The 27-year-old Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) was supposed to square off against Germany’s Juergen Braehmer (49-3, 25 KOs) on Saturday night, but Braehmer withdrew from their fight Monday due to an illness. The Netherlands’ Holzken (13-1, 10 KOs) was training to fight another opponent on the undercard and happily replaced Braehmer on five days’ notice.
Despite Smith’s subpar performance, Groves expects fireworks when they meet June 2.
“An explosive one, definitely,” Groves said. “I think Callum’s greatest attribute is his punch power. We know how to nullify it and I can hit pretty hard myself, so I don’t expect it to go the distance. We’re confident of a win, of course, but we’re looking forward to it. I think it’s gonna be a great fight.”
The 29-year-old Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered a dislocated left shoulder during the 12th round of his semifinal victory over England’s Chris Eubank Jr. (26-2, 20 KOs) a week ago in Manchester. He has since had an MRI and seen specialists, who’ve assured Groves he’ll heal relatively quickly and be able to meet Smith in the final.
“We’re gonna find the full details on Monday,” Groves said. “We’ll be able to inform everyone. But I am extremely confident that I’ll be more than fit to fight in the final against Callum Smith. I have to be, because I’ve had two great wins so far, Callum likewise. This is the fight people wanna see. I’m WBA champion; I’m No. 1 seed. I need to now go in there and win that trophy.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.