LOTS TO DIS­CUSS

Boxing News - - Contents - El­liot Worsell sum­marises the lat­est news from the in­creas­ingly chaotic WBSS

All the lat­est news from the WBSS

‘IT’S AGAINST THE ODDS THAT GROVESSMITH TAKES PLACE IN THE UK’

HOW do you make the World Box­ing Su­per Se­ries (WBSS) su­per-mid­dleweight fi­nal be­tween George Groves and Cal­lum Smith even more frus­trat­ing?

Here’s how. Not con­tent with it be­ing de­layed and de­layed, on ac­count of a Groves shoul­der in­jury, you then tease the pos­si­bil­ity that the fi­nal, when it’s even­tu­ally an­nounced, won’t take place in Eng­land, the home coun­try of both fi­nal­ists, but will in­stead be tossed some­where abroad.

“I’ve heard ru­mours of Las Ve­gas and the Mid­dle East. Lots of ru­mours,” pro­moter Kalle Sauer­land, one of the men be­hind the WBSS, told IFL TV.

“That fight will take place in Septem­ber and the venue is po­ten­tially out­side the UK. It’s against the odds it’s in the UK.”

In a sense, this would be in keep­ing with the fi­nal – this al­lur­ing, prob­lem­atic, con­fus­ing fi­nal – and the topsy-turvy, un­pre­dictable na­ture of the WBSS it­self. But that doesn’t mean it makes much sense, be­yond fi­nan­cial, and, what’s more, the fi­nal tak­ing place any­where other than Bri­tain would rep­re­sent a dis­ap­point­ing con­clu­sion to a 168pound tour­na­ment dom­i­nated by Bri­tish fight­ers and sensible, com­pelling matchups.

It’s dis­ap­point­ing be­cause it has taken so long, but dis­ap­point­ing most of all be­cause Groves and Smith, two rea­son­ably pop­u­lar fight­ers in the UK, will now seem­ingly have their crown­ing mo­ment ei­ther in Saudi Ara­bia, the United States of Amer­ica or some­where else out­side their home coun­try.

It was weird enough when cruis­er­weights Oleksandr Usyk and Mu­rat Gassiev were gear­ing up for an ill­fated fi­nal in Jed­dah. Yet, at least for them that was con­sid­ered neu­tral ter­ri­tory. (Be­sides, there was no ob­vi­ous lo­ca­tion scream­ing out to any­one.)

In the case of Groves and Smith, how­ever, it would seem com­mon ground is no longer any good and com­mon sense is nowhere to be found. And that’s a shame.

On a brighter Wbss-re­lated note, the glo­ri­ous cruis­er­weight fi­nal be­tween Usyk and Gassiev is tak­ing place in Moscow,

Rus­sia next Satur­day (July 21), and can be watched live in the UK on ITV Box Of­fice, but it will cost you £9.95.

Whether this fight, a true trade fight with lit­tle ap­peal out­side the box­ing bub­ble, does the kind of busi­ness ITV and the pro­mot­ers are hop­ing for re­mains to be seen, but what can’t be de­nied is its qual­ity. For­get pop­u­lar­ity, or lack thereof, this, if you like box­ing, is about as good as it gets.

Even bet­ter news: there’s ap­par­ently more to come in WBSS sea­son two. Set to start this au­tumn, sea­son two fea­tures ban­tamweights and su­per-lightweights and will also wel­come an­other weight-class – cruis­er­weights or light-heavy­weights have been ru­moured – by the time it gets go­ing.

At ban­tamweight, for­mer world cham­pi­ons Juan Car­los Payano and Nonito Don­aire are the lat­est ad­di­tions. Payano, a 34-year-old from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, won the WBA ban­tamweight ti­tle in 2014, only to lose it in 2016 against Rau’shee War­ren, while Don­aire, one of the greats, has agreed to move down from feath­er­weight. This de­ci­sion, un­wise ac­cord­ing to some, will see Don­aire, now 35, com­pete in his old 118-pound weight class for the first time since 2011.

“Peo­ple al­ways asked about my goal and it was to be undis­puted,” he said. “With this tour­na­ment, that goal is now at­tain­able.

“En­ter­ing the tour­na­ment gives me an op­por­tu­nity to show­case my ca­pa­bil­i­ties against the best in this divi­sion. This divi­sion is stacked with tal­ent and that’s re­ally ex­cit­ing.

“I be­lieve my size, ex­pe­ri­ence and, most of all, my power will give me the edge over my op­po­nents.”

The 12 rounds Don­aire pro­duced against Carl Framp­ton in April showed there was still life in the old dog, yet, equally, that Don­aire wasn’t the fighter of old, nor a nat­u­ral feath­er­weight. Un­der­sized and even­tu­ally out­classed, the for­mer cham­pion won the hearts of the Ir­ish fans with a gutsy show­ing, as well as some en­dear­ing pre­fight ges­tures, and left a win­ner even in de­feat.

The as­sump­tion after the Framp­ton fight was that the “Filipino Flash” would re­turn to su­per-ban­tamweight and re­main there for the fi­nal year or two of a tough ca­reer. It seemed, if he was go­ing to con­tinue, the right thing to do. Yet, in choos­ing to join the WBSS ban­tamweight tour­na­ment, Don­aire has skipped a weight class, shocked us all, and done some­thing that will ei­ther work out well for him, now that he’s back among men his own size, in a divi­sion he once dom­i­nated, or end badly.

Time will tell.

‘MY GOAL OF BE­ING UNDIS­PUTED CHAM­PION IS NOW AT­TAIN­ABLE’

Photo: AC­TION IMAGES/AN­DREW COULDRIDGE

UN­DER WRAPS: Sauer­land, Groves and Mcguigan cel­e­brate, but what’s next?

Photo: AC­TION IMAGES/JA­SON CAIRN­DUFF & SUZANNE TERESA/PBC

NEW EN­TRANTS: Age­ing Don­aire is will­ing to drop signi cant weight to com­pete along­side Payano [be­low] in the upcoming ban­tamweight WBSS tour­na­ment

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