Callum Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) vs. George Groves (28-3, 20 KOs)
When: Saturday, July 14, 2018
Where: O2 Arena, London, England
Weight Class: WBA Super Middleweight Title
by Scott of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Callum Smith (+135), George Groves (-165)
Unbeaten Callum Smith takes on George Groves for the WBA 168-pound title in London at the O2 Arena on July 14. The bout is also the final of the World Boxing Super Series, a super middleweight tournament where the winner will have a big notch on his belt. Groves, the more-accomplished and experienced of the two, beat Jamie Cox in the quarters, before scoring a signature February decision win over Chris Eubank, Jr. His opponent, Smith, had a less-demanding career and route to this final match, with wins over Eric Skoglund and Nieky Holzien to set up this finals encounter with Groves. This is truly a high-stakes battle with a lot on the line.
At 30, Groves has been around and taken on some top guys, unlike his foe Smith. He is in the midst of a nice little renaissance period in his career. The win over Eubank, Jr. was superb, with Groves showing some of the old menace that made him a star. At one point, it seemed he had stopped evolving, all too eager to rely on his speed and sheer fighting skill, while neglecting strategy and some of the finer points. When it came to taking on the best, some of his shortcomings became apparent and he went through a rough patch with the two losses to Froch and a surprise setback to Badou Jack.
We see Groves getting more out of his vast skill-set of late. He looked like he might be the best in the world after beating a young James DeGale and en route to scoring a big win over 168-pound royalty in Carl Froch. But Froch’s power won the day and he was crushed in the rematch. Against Jack, he appeared to be a force in decline, before this latest surge. And a win over the fancied and unbeaten Smith would put him right at the top of the division, a goal he has been after for quite some time. It would be a massive achievement for a fighter with a lot of talent, but a guy many had written off to a large degree.
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Groves is coming off a shoulder injury he suffered against Eubank. It came late in the fight and he was able to soldier through. Recovering from the surgery forced this bout to be pushed back to this date. Groves has endured a demanding career and the shoulder shows the wear and tear might be beginning to rear its ugly head. It’s just another wrinkle to this fight that may or may not materialize. But a Groves backer would hope the shoulder isn’t an issue or that it forces Groves into a more-conservative approach. Groves is a guy who can fight with a range of effectiveness. At his worst, he’s not a thinker in the ring, overly-relying on his physical gifts and failing to visualize a fight properly. Against Eubank, Jr., we saw him at his best with his considerable physicality bolstered by a strong head-game and strategy. But he has been prone to mental lapses in the ring when a better vision of the fight could have led to victory.
At 28, Smith might not be much younger chronologically than Groves, but he’s the new face on the scene. He comes from an extensive fighting family where several of his brothers have fought with distinction at the pro level. In a pro career spanning just over 5 years, there has been little to criticize. At 24-0, Smith is a physical presence at 168 pounds, standing a rangy six-foot-three. The Liverpool native has done everything asked of him, but he hasn’t been asked the same questions as Groves. And despite not being given the toughest opposition, including a late-sub in his last fight, he has gotten to the finals without much incident. He is rightfully considered a major threat to Groves, despite having not been in with the same company as the Londoner.
The step up in class is a major concern for those looking to take a stab on the unbeaten Smith. Despite his dimensions, he’s a pretty straightforward type. A long fighter, he doesn’t use a lot of movement, nor does he look to establish a long-range game. He’s a mixer, throwing a high amount of leather and looking to establish a rhythm. He looks to thrive in the momentum he creates, as he moves forward and throws hard shots in combination. When he is undeterred, he starts to take over fights with his volume and insistence. He isn’t a one-dimensional come-forward fighter either; also able to counter when his opponent takes the lead. That counter left hook, especially to the body, is a reliable weapon and one he hopes to employ with gusto for this matchup. But while he can counter well and launches big counters when backing up, he is a front-foot guy, boosted with a set of good reflexes and a solid understanding of the sport-an innateness coming from having been immersed in boxing culture since he was a kid.
Casting Smith as the inexperienced greenhorn compared to Groves holds some water considering Groves’ resume, but it might be a less-stark difference than it appears. Smith might not have the shining stars on his body of work that Groves has, but his background suggests a young man who knows what he’s doing in the ring. Smith being raised the way he was in a fighting family has made fighting almost second-nature to him. He has a remarkable calmness in the ring that makes him a relaxed fighter who can see everything coming. That level of calm allows him to react instinctively to everything thrown his way
By the same token, I see Groves as the more-versatile of the two men. To be really effective, Smith needs to be moving forward. Groves is the more-adaptable and multi-talented fighter in this matchup. He has also seen what he does well translate at the highest levels of the sport, something Smith can’t claim, though he’s never been given the opportunity until now. There is no way anyone can say with certainty that Smith’s high-volume forward style won’t be enough to take this one. But if Groves can stand up to it, Smith might be out answers. Fighting at home, I see Groves being a little too slick for Smith. I’ll take George Groves to take this one.
My Prediction to Win the Fight:
I’m betting on George Groves to win at -165 betting odds. Smith is a handful whose ceiling is unknown at this time. Groves, the more-proven battler, has more dimensions and routes to victory and will be ultra-motivated to reach the top of the division after a long struggle to get there. Find the best betting odds for this fight (and all sports betting events) at 5Dimes.