Groves and Smith head to the Mid­dle East to vie for WBA and WBSS glory,

Boxing News - - Contents - writes Paul Wheeler

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


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

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