By Keith Idec
The first four super middleweight matches in the World Boxing Super Series tournament were established during a draft gala Saturday night in Monaco.
The four top-seeded super middleweights chose their opponents from among a group of four unseeded super middleweights.
England’s George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs), the WBA super middleweight champion and No. 1 seed, chose to face fellow Englishman Jamie Cox (23-0, 13 KOs) in the quarterfinals.
“Me and Jamie are old buddies,” Groves said. “We’ve known each other a long time now. I quite fancied a bit of a domestic dustup, wanted to pick my countryman. I knew he wanted to fight me. I provided him a great opportunity. He’s fighting for a world title. Also it’s a strategic move. It’s a long tournament and you pick the easy guys first.”
Cox didn’t seem to take offense to Groves’ comments.
“I was looking forward to getting a UK dustup,” Cox said. “Obviously George picked me. It makes for a great fight. Time to bury a seed.”
After Groves chose Cox, England’s Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) picked Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs).
“There’s four very good fighters to pick from,” Smith said. “I just think stylistically Erik’s the best fight for me.”
Skoglund added, “To kick off the quarterfinals fighting an undefeated, top guy for the WBC Diamond belt, it’s massive, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice.”
Once the Smith-Skoglund matchup was determined, Chris Eubank Sr., who picked on behalf of his son and Arthur Abraham, opted for Turkey’s Avni Yildirim (16-0, 10 KOs). The winner of a July 15 bout between IBO super middleweight champion Chris Eubank Jr. (24-1, 19 KOs) and Abraham, a former middleweight and super middleweight champion, will box Yildirim.
“Look at him – He’s massive and he’s a come-forward fighter,” Eubank Sr. said. “I don’t think he knows how to go back. He brings war, as does Arthur Abraham, which will make for a spectacular fight. And once my son gets past Arthur Abraham, then [Yildirim] will bring him the same fight. But you may learn during the fight he has with Arthur Abraham, he will learn that it is not possibly the right method to use force. You have to use your brains to beat Chris Eubank Jr. He is an upgraded version of me.”
Yildirim said he was “very happy” with Eubank Sr.’s decision.
“It is my time, Chris,” Yildrim said. “Good luck for your son.”
After the first three fights were made, the two remaining super middleweights – Germany’s Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs) and American Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs) – were left to fight each other.
The eight-man super middleweight tournament, like the eight-man cruiserweight tournament, will begin with four quarterfinal fights that’ll take place in September and October. The super middleweight semifinals will take place in January and February.
The final will be scheduled for sometime in May. The winner will receive the Muhammad Ali Trophy and substantial prize money.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.