It’s been delayed by about three months, but this Friday we’re off to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to crown either George Groves or Callum Smith the winner of the World Boxing Super Series and the best super middleweight on the planet.
Also making the trip to the Middle East is Chris Eubank Jr for his dangerous tick-over scrap with JJ McDonagh.
On Sunday the boxing is Stateside, with James DeGale keeping his hands warm in a short notice bout and Joe Joyce bringing his own brand of heavyweight destruction to the same bill.
Groves v Smith – Bet Now
The rumour is that the winner of Groves-Smith will walk away with around five million quid, so although it’s disappointing the domestic dust-up takes place in a quiet, booze-free arena in Jeddah, I am sure the winner will be comforted by his suitcase full of loot and a delicious fruit smoothie.
Pre-tournament favourite Smith battled through against solid Swede Erik Skoglund in the quarter finals, and then plodded past late replacement and 13-fight novice Nieky Holzken in the semis.
Groves, on the other hand, folded fellow Englishman Jamie Cox in four rounds in his first tournament contest and then impressively battered Eubank in the last four. Going into the final Groves has moved to be the marginal frontrunner at 8/11.
Maybe the biggest disparity between the boxers is experience. Groves is a world champion, he’s been in six title fights, he beat DeGale in 2011, first faced Froch in 2013 and he’s got the hairline to show it. Smith is unbeaten, but the biggest names on his ledger are Skoglund and Rocky Fielding.
The only two boxers to beat the Londoner have been big, strong units and this Friday Smith will have a clear height advantage. The Scouser won the English, British and European belts all in one round and the majority of his KO wins have come early.
Froch raised some serious questions about Groves’ chin and you can back Smith to win in rounds 1-6 at 7/1.
‘Mundo’ has never been tested in the same way because he’s never been at world level, however when opponents have temporarily forced Smith backwards he’s looked disorganised and disoriented. All three of Callum’s boxing brothers have been stopped at the highest level.
The reason this fight was delayed was because Groves dislocated his shoulder laying into Eubank back in February. The ‘Saint’ has put time and money into his rehab and there’s only a remote chance he reinjures it, but whether his jab is still one of the best in the game only he knows.
It was the right hand that floored Froch in round 1 in 2013 and with or without a dodgy left arm I believe Groves will force Smith into the trenches.
The challenger has the pressure of winning the title, of earning life-changing money and of facing a far better opponent than ever before, and I don’t reckon he’ll be able to handle it.
Bet of the bout: Groves to win by KO at 10/3.
For most of Eubank’s career you couldn’t accuse him of being sensible, but after the Brighton man got banged up by Groves he took himself out of the spotlight for seven months for training.
Now he returns against a solid operator with the hope of having a big fight at the end of the year – how mature.
JJ McDonagh is the opponent Eubank is supposed to be sharpening his tools on, but the Irishman is confident he has more heart than his former sparring partner, and the lanky southpaw is no stranger to upsets having taken out one of Britain’s biggest light heavyweight prospects Jake Ball in 2016.
The fact that Team Eubank know McDonagh so well suggests they picked him for a reason.
McDonagh is ring-savvy and I expect Eubank to try to work on some new things – the best bet is for the Englishman to take the win in rounds 5-6 at 4/1.
Britain’s 2016 Olympic silver medallist Joyce has made the move to the Californian mountains to train alongside Gennady Golovkin and this weekend is his first chance to show us what he’s learned.
In the opposite corner is Georgian makeweight Iago Kiladze, who’s actually a decent boxer but doesn’t seem to have the conditioning or heart to beat anybody good. If you lack those ingredients against the ‘Juggernaut’ you won’t last long, so I am backing Joyce to win in rounds 1-2.
Degale gave up his title last month rather than defend it against a low-profile South American hard nut because he wasn’t offered enough dough, and he’ll be trying to secure the winner of Groves-Smith, or Eubank at the very least, for a big money showdown in a few months’ time.
Expect him to waltz past whichever journeyman they match him with.
*All odds correct at time of posting