LOTS TO DISCUSS
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’
UNDER WRAPS: Sauerland, Groves and Mcguigan celebrate, but what’s next?
NEW ENTRANTS: Ageing Donaire is willing to drop signi cant weight to compete alongside Payano [below] in the upcoming bantamweight WBSS tournament