Callum Smith claimed the top spot in the super middleweight division on Friday 28th September with a clinical, emphatic knockout of a brave and battling George Groves. Smith’s power showed several times, shaking up Groves with right hands – most notably in the third round – signalling the likely end result.
Every minute of the fight was tightly contested, Groves controlled distance by feinting and landing his quick left jab to head and body while Smith looked to counter any wayward shots and throw his long right hand over any lazy Groves’ jabs. The wide variation in the judges’ scorecards reflected the back and forth nature of the fight with each fighter getting a 5-1 scorecard in their favour at the time of the stoppage and the other judge seeing it all square.
With hindsight, however, it is clear that the knockout was only a matter of time, Groves was getting hit harder and more frequently by Smith’s right each round and the disparity in power and size was obvious. Callum Smith towered over Groves who is otherwise considered a very big super middleweight and used his long levers to maintain distance. Do not be surprised if he moves up to light heavyweight at some point down the road.
What made Smith so lethal, though, was a combination of his ability to keep up with Groves when countering and inconsistent defensive responsibility on the champion’s part. Ultimately, he matched a Groves right hook with a left, which shook his unprotected jaw. Once he had his man rocked, Smith didn’t wait around. Groves headed for the ropes and covered up and crucially Smith didn’t start wailing away; he measured his punches, attacking head and body to slip by Groves’ guard, finishing the job with a sharp right below the ribs.
Smith claimed the WBA title belt and the Ring championship that night as the number one man in the division. However, his position will likely face the challenge of formidable contenders: Gilberto Ramirez (his most dangerous rival), athletic prospect David Benavidez or the rugged Jose Uzcategui. These fights won’t come till later next year, a lucrative domestic fight against a lesser challenger in Chris Eubank Jr. or James Degale in Liverpool is next.
Smith has earned a big homecoming fight; Degale and Eubank should produce a fun fight which favours the Liverpudlian. Groves, meanwhile, will have to decide if he wants to continue fighting. For a 30-year-old, he has fought in more wars than most and seemed to have taken enough punishment by the end of the Smith fight. He could come back for one more payday by taking on James Degale again but otherwise retirement may be the best option. His career has provided enough entertainment to satisfy any boxing fan either way.