Groves and Smith head to the Middle East to vie for WBA and WBSS glory,
Predicting the winner of the Grovessmith World Boxing Super Series final
Super Series 168lb tournament trophy.
STRENGTHS: EXPERIENCE is one of the key factors in Groves’ favour in this fight. Whereas Smith has never before contested a world title bout, Groves has six to his name. The Hammersmith “Saint” has taken part in some huge matchups that have caught the attention of casual fans and even the non-boxing public, such as his memorable encounters with fellow standout Brits James Degale (w md 12), Carl Froch (twice – l rsf 9 & l rsf 8) and Chris Eubank Jnr (w ud 12). Facing Smith in a high-profile all-british clash will therefore be nothing new for Groves. Neither will boxing away from the UK, as the 30-year-old has done this on five occasions in the past (compared to Smith’s two). Although he has tasted defeat three times – twice to Froch and once to the muchimproved Badou Jack (sd 12) – these setbacks have given Groves the chance to demonstrate his impressive
A STRONG CASE CAN BE MADE FOR EITHER BOXER GETTING THE WIN
bouncebackability. Despite being unsuccessful in his first three world title attempts, the Londoner stuck at it and saw his persistence rewarded with victory in his fourth try, versus the resolute Fedor Chudinov (rsf 6).
A two-time ABA champ as an amateur, Groves boasts a brilliant jab which he thrusts out purposefully both upstairs and down from a leverage-providing wide-legged crouch. He uses sharp feints, darting head movement and smart footwork to aid him in defence and attack, while his broad and solid frame supplies him with considerable strength up close.
A measured puncher who targets the body with precision and spite, Groves possesses thumping power, especially when launching ferocious right hooks. Perhaps his most valuable attribute is his ability to intelligently manage fights in the heat of battle, as his tactical astuteness allows him to implement disciplined game plans.
Like Groves, Smith is an accomplished technical boxer who honed his substantial skills during a fruitful career in the unpaid ranks, the highlight of which was a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Also like Groves, he is a powerfully built supermiddleweight, though where he holds significant advantages over the champion is in height and range. Smith stands at 6ft 3ins (three-and-a-half inches taller than Groves) and has a 78-inch reach (half-a-foot greater than Groves). The Liverpudlian makes use of his lengthy levers by dishing out ramrod jabs from distance, as well as long right crosses. Although he is only two years younger than Groves, the 28-year-old is the far fresher fighter, having turned professional four years later.
Composed when under fire, Smith covers up effectively and sets himself well in his upright stance. Explosive and ruthless when he has an opponent in trouble, the cool-headed Scouser is a particularly fast starter, with 10 of his wins coming in the opening round, most notably against respected duo Rocky Fielding and Hadillah Mohoumadi. His clever punch-picking and debilitating natural power are well-documented, but his speed of fist is underrated. Boasting good variety and an admirable work rate, “Mundo” mixes up his shots effectively to head and body. Uppercuts and big right hands form part of his diverse arsenal, though his left hook to the midsection is arguably his most potent strike.
WEAKNESSES: AS alluded to earlier, Groves has more miles on the clock than Smith, having suffered knockdowns and stoppage defeats in the past, as well as being involved in some tough fights. He has previously been accused of fading somewhat in the later rounds of contests, although he has seemingly rectified this unwanted habit. After undergoing shoulder surgery following his last outing in February against Eubank, Groves will be hoping that the injury does not flare up again and impede him when opposing Smith.
Whereas Groves has been in formidable form of late, Smith’s two most recent performances have not been as eye-catching and dominant as we have come to expect from him, although he was still victorious via unanimous decision in both bouts. Erik Skoglund and especially Nieky Holzken were not regarded as dangerous rivals for Smith beforehand, but they each performed far better than anticipated, while Smith’s lofty level dropped slightly. His work largely lacked its typical fluency and he was hit more than usual. With the most difficult assignment of his career to date looming, Smith would’ve ideally been hoping to enter this pivotal match in better form.
OUTCOME: WITH both men happiest when working behind their quality jabs, and both no doubt being respectful of each other’s power, this could well be a tight and tactical affair. A strong case can be made for either boxer coming out with the win, but Groves’ superior know-how at the top level is likely to prove the difference. By connecting with punches when it matters and not allowing Smith’s physical advantages to come to the fore, the shrewd-boxing champion can secure a close but merited decision.
THE VERDICT A fitting finale to Season I of the World Boxing Super Series.
LAST MEN STANDING: Groves [left] and Smith have each won two WBSS bouts to get to this point
SPAR WARS: Promoter Kalle Sauerland stands between Groves [left] and Smith, both sporting black eyes from sparring