Callum Smith Advances to the Finals of the WBSS 168-Pound Tourney

Liverpool’s Callum Smith, the youngest of four fighting brothers, kept his unbeaten record intact and advanced to the finals of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament with a unanimous decision over late sub Nieky Holzken on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Nuremberg, Germany. Smith prevailed by scores of 118-110 and 117-111 twice. Up next for Smith, if all goes according to plan, is a date with countryman George Groves at the O2 Arena in London on June 2.

Holzken, who suffered his first loss in 14 pro starts, was preparing to fight Dimitrii Chudinov in an 8-round match on the undercard when Juergen Braehmer was forced to back out of the tournament with an illness, affording the obscure Holzken the opportunity to become boxing’s next real-life Rocky Balboa.

The 34-year-old Dutchman, a former European kickboxing and Muay Thai champion, wasn’t lacking for confidence despite his limited experience as a conventional boxer. “I’m used to fighting on a big stage from the other sports I’ve been involved in,” he told the press. “I’ve been waiting for a chance like this for a long time, and now that it has been handed to me, I will take it with both hands…(Callum Smith) will know much more about me after I hit him for the first time on Saturday.”

The experts gave Holzken little chance and he actually performed better than expected. Although he was rather robotic and his punches were often wide, he had several good moments and finished strong. But Smith was three-and-a-half inches taller with a much longer reach and he was able to keep Holzken at the end of his stick for most of the fight. The punch stats were skewed heavily toward the Englishman who improved his record to 24-0.

Overall, it was a rather drab fight with Smith showing none of the ferocity that enabled him to score six straight first round knockouts as he was climbing the ladder. Based on their recent showings, George Groves will almost certainly be a solid favorite over Smith when they eventually lock horns. Groves was in attendance with his trainer Shane McGuigan and they undoubtedly came away with insights that will prove useful in the tournament finale.

The big question now is whether Groves will be sufficiently healed to keep the June 2 date after dislocating his shoulder in his Feb. 17 clash with Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, who says he is a fast healer, will know more on Tuesday when he is scheduled to see a specialist for another examination.

This begs another question. If Groves, the tournament’s top seed, can’t keep the date, will the WBSS plug another fighter into his slot? Promoter Kalle Sauerland says this is a possibility and concedes that Chris Eubank Jr. is on his short list, notwithstanding the inevitable backlash should that transpire. Another possibility is John Ryder (25-4), a stocky southpaw from London who is coming off the best performance of his career, a fifth round stoppage of Patrick Nielsen.

UNDERCARD

In a contest with a Mutt-and Jeff flavor, 6-foot-6 Croatian heavyweight Filip Hrgovic cruised to a one-sided 8-round decision over 5-foot-11 Dubliner Sean Turner. This was the fourth pro fight for the highly-touted Hrgovic who dismissed his previous three opponents via the early knockout route. Turner, who declined to 12-2, was coming off an 8th round stoppage of Belgium’s Arnold Gjergjej, a mild upset, but prior to meeting Gjergjej he had fought 11 straight opponents with losing records.

Also, the aforementioned Chudinov (21-2-2) had a harder time than expected with 43-year-old Ukrainian journeyman Siarhei Khamitski (31-15-3). The match went the full eight rounds with Chudinov prevailing by identical 78-73 scores.

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