|Groves to Win on Points||7/4||888Sport|
|Smith to Win by KO||7/2||Ladbrokes|
George Groves and Callum Smith touch gloves in unfamiliar territory this Friday as the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, plays host to the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final.
According to the brainchild of the World Boxing Super Series, Kalle Sauerland, the unusual destination of the final was inspired by the man the trophy is named after, Muhammad Ali, who is much-revered in the predominantly Muslim country.
Heavyweight hero Ali, of course, made a habit of bringing his biggest fights to exotic locations, most notably the Rumble In The Jungle with George Foreman in Zaire in 1974 and then the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier in the Philippines the following year.
Obviously, super-middleweights Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) and Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) fall some way short of such legendary status, but the fight has nonetheless garnered substantial interest – in the UK at least – having been seven months in the making.
The best bookmakers have no shortage of value on offer but Paddy Power have the best price on Groves as the 5/6 favourite, while both Coral and Ladbrokes boast an industry best price of 5/4 for slight underdog Smith.
Quite a lot, is the short answer. Not only is the vacant Muhammad Ali Trophy up for grabs, this fight also doubles up as Groves’ third defence of the WBA Super World Championship belt, which he won against Fedor Chudinov in May 2017. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Ring Magazine super-middleweight title plus the WBC Diamond 168-pound title will also be fought for.
Since losing a split decision to Badou Jack, Groves has mustered up a winning streak of seven, but a fourth career defeat to his younger, much less experienced compatriot would send the 30-year-old back to the drawing board with little to no ink.
For Smith, this represents his first world title shot and his first crack at an experienced, globally recognised opponent. The Liverpudlian enjoyed an easier route to the final than Groves, beating Erik Skoglund in the quarter-final and Nieky Holzken in semi-final, but was denied the chance to showcase his talent against top-class, experienced opposition when Jürgen Bräehmer pulled out of the semis through illness.
Although he does have a career TKO win over Rocky Fielding – now the WBA World Champion at super-middleweight – defeat to Groves may prompt question marks over Smith’s ability to mix it with the best in the division.
In defeating Chris Eubank Jnr in the semi-final, Groves suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 11th round before seeing out the final moments effectively with one arm, having built up a lead on the scorecards. It was an admirable end to a comprehensive victory in which the Hammersmith hardman out-boxed his foe for much of the opening 10 rounds.
The question now is, after surgery to repair his left shoulder, will it hold up if Smith can take the favourite into the latter rounds? Dislocated shoulders are notorious for producing recurring problems and many have cited the potential pain as Smith’s best chance of exploiting Groves.
Although Smith will enjoy a substantial height and reach advantage, Groves is the superior boxer, so the underdog must rely on his power to force the Londoner into an uncomfortable position. Groves – stopped twice by Carl Froch in 2013 and 2014 – does have question marks over his chin and those who doubt he can withstand Smith’s power can back ‘Mundo’ to win by knockout or technical knockout at 7/2 with Bethard.
As the old saying goes, a boxer (Groves) beats a puncher (Smith). Most of the time anyway. Although three defeats in world title fights gives Groves’ record a bit of a bad look, it is important to assess the quality of the opposition in those cases. Carl Froch was one of the best of a fine generation in the super-middleweight division, while Badou Jack is a two-weight world champion who was, and still is, in the prime of his career.
While it’s true that Jack broke Groves down with power shots in his split decision win at the MGM Grand in September 2015 – and that may give his upcoming opponent some food for thought – Smith has not been operating at that level, so it’s too soon to say if he can replicate that game-plan.
With 20 knockouts and a rare flooring of Froch on his resume, Groves does have power, but 6’3” Smith is likely to be too big for ‘Saint George’ to stop. If Groves’ suspect shoulder can withstand the pressure, this fight – which will be broadcast live on ITV Box Office in the UK and on DAZN in the US – is likely to go the distance. Take Groves to win by Decision or Technical Decision at 7/4 with 888Sport.