Groves vs. Smith: WBSS Dust-up in the Desert

On Friday afternoon U.S. time zone, George Groves and Callum Smith battle in the World Boxing Super Series Final. Some may say this fight will only decide the best super middleweight in the United Kingdom, at the end of the day is a legit matchup. Due to injuries and the powers that be, instead of a jammed-packed O2 Arena in London this event takes place in Saudi Arabia. 

George Groves has been in the limelight the moment he beat another fellow countryman James Degale over 7 years ago. It was a close contest but a mediocre watch, because neither man had entered their prime and still needed a bit of seasoning. Groves would go on to challenge Carl Froch in his first championship belt shot, losing controversially from an early technical-stoppage. Almost 80,000 fans showed up to Wembley Stadium for the rematch, unfortunately for Groves after a few good rounds he would be pasted to the canvas. 

Groves came up short yet again in a spirited effort versus Badou Jack in 2015. ‘King’ George was forced to rebuild his career as he got back on the ladder at super middleweight. In the process, Groves made improvements to his fighting game and more importantly to his body. Groves improved his endurance and won 4 fights in row leading to a 4th title shot against Fedor Chudinov. Beyond a few touch and go moments, it was Groves who got stronger as the fight wore on, ultimately stopping Chudinov in the 6th round to become the WBA 168-pound champ. Several weeks later he found himself entered in the WBSS as the favorite. Groves now looks to beat his 3rd consecutive UK fighter and become the WBSS super middleweight champion.

Groves challenger is undefeated Callum Smith, a boxer that presents an interesting style matchup from a chess-match perspective. The only victory of note on Smith’s record is Rocky Fielding whom he dispatched in grand fashion via 1st round knockout. The book is still out on Callum Smith’s pedigree and power even with that impressive Rocky knockout. 

The experience factor will play a large part in deciding the outcome to this all-British affair. Obviously Groves has an abundance of experience at the very highest level in bouts with Carl Froch and Badou Jack. However, experience is one thing, final result is totally different. It’s nice to have shared the ring with future hall of famer’s but the fact he wasn’t able to overcome is telling to an extent. 

The fresher of the two pugilists is far and away Callum Smith. Groves has been around the block a few times, it’s just a matter of when not if he falls of the cliff and his body fails to respond. Think of that last sentence now add in returning from a shoulder injury early this year. Of course we don’t really know for sure how Callum Smith will respond to advertising. Sure his combinations look crisp and fast but we won’t know how he reacts to getting hit repeatedly or if he can make the correct adjustments. 

Another important item to touch upon is punch resistance. The jury is still out on Smith but we do know that Groves can be stopped. Of course we can’t forget that Carl Froch had plenty of thunder in his gloves. Truth-be-told this hack-of-a-scribe doesn’t see a knockout happening on either side. 

The biggest question pertaining to style is who will take lead in the early goings. Will Groves assert himself early and take the fight to Callum hoping to catch Smith off-guard? Or will the young gunner be trigger-happy from the jump? My guess is the first two or three rounds will be uneventful, full of faints and posturing. Once they find their groove we could get a pretty-damn good scrap full of two-action. 

Groves at his best is a counter puncher looking to measure and time opponents. He’s also not afraid to mix it up in exchanges regardless of how the judge’s scorecards have it at the time. For Groves, lateral movement mixed with an active jab and looping power shots is just what the doctor ordered. As soon as Groves gets the upper hand look from him to open up offensively

Callum Smith needs to use his natural height and reach advantage, hand speed as well favors Smith. Keeping Groves at bay will turn his opponent into a chaser instead of a catcher so to speak. Smith’s Sunday punch is a left to the body and then to the head. If Smith can put in body work early and often, it could result in a fading Groves. At times Callum can be somewhat stiff and stand straight up in a classic European pro stance. 

Groves is the more versatile on offense and defense. It might be a case of neither guy wanting to lead, if so this could be a snoozer. Both men will have success in the first 8 rounds so it could be 5-3 or 4-4. Groves will take more risk and probably win the fight because of it. Risk does open up opportunities and it will be up to Smith to take advantage of the openings. The difference will be Groves figuring out how to land and defend consistently against the limited or basic output from Smith. 

My Official Prediction is George Groves by Unanimous Decision. 

Side Note: Between ShoBox: The New Generation and the PBC on FS1, prospects Devin Haney, Brandon Figueroa, Joe Joyce will all be in step up level fights this weekend.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/P roducer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio