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CALLUM SMITH ADVANCES TO THE WBSS FINAL TO FACE GEORGE GROVES

By ESPN.com

Nuremberg, Germany (February 25th, 2018)– Callum Smith eased past Nieky Holzken by unanimous points decision on Saturday to set up a World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final with English rival George Groves.



WBA world super middleweight champion Groves watched on from ringside as Smith pounded out scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111 at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Nuremberg, Germany.

Smith dominated behind his piston-like jab with a risk-averse strategy, as he contained rather than bludgeoned the plucky Holzken, who stepped in at five days’ notice to replace ill Jurgen Braehmer. Smith was a clear winner without producing anything spectacular in a one-paced performance.

The WBSS’ first season has consistently provided thrills and spills in its two competitions at super middleweight and cruiserweight.



But this semifinal was a bit predictable and Smith admitted it was also a bit anticlimactic.

“It was a little bit disappointing because I wanted to fight Jurgen Braehmer,” said Smith.

“He was tough and game. Did I underestimate him? Maybe a little bit, but it was all about getting through to the final. I was using my jab, and it was about making sure I’m in that final.

“People were saying he’s a kickboxer and I should knock him out, so there was a lot of pressure. It does play on your mind.

“It was about sticking to the basics. It was safety first and I boxed smart. It’s job done.”

Smith (24-0, 17 KOs), 27, versus Groves (28-3, 20 KOs), 29, is provisionally scheduled for June 2 at London’s O2 Arena.

But the date is unconfirmed as Groves dislocated his left shoulder during a unanimous points win over English rival Chris Eubank Jr. on Feb. 17. The final may be pushed back to later in June if Londoner Groves needs more time to recover from injury.

“He’s the fight I wanted in the final because he’s got what all of us in the tournament want [a world title],” said Smith.

Groves expects to know more about his injury this week. “We’re going to find out the full details on Monday, but I’m tremendously confident I will fight Callum Smith,” said Groves. “I don’t expect it to go the distance.”

As well as victory securing Smith his first world title shot, it was also a first defense of his WBC Diamond belt, which keeps Smith front of the queue for a shot at the WBC version of the world title.

Smith, from Liverpool, had never heard of Holzken before the Dutchman was drafted in on Monday after Braehmer pulled out with flu.

Better known for his kickboxing and Muay Thai exploits, Holzken (13-1, 10 KOs) had never boxed anywhere near this level before and went 12 rounds for the first time in his 14th professional fight.

Holzken, 34, from Helmond in the Netherlands, had been preparing to face Russia’s Dmitrii Chudinov on the undercard of Smith’s semifinal.

Smith, who out-pointed Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (116-112, 117-110, 117-111) in his quarterfinal, unerringly found Holzken with jab after jab from the first round. The Englishman, who had a height advantage of over 3 inches, controlled most of the fight from range with an immaculate jab.

Smith — the youngest of four boxing brothers (Paul, Liam and Stephen) from Liverpool — quickly established authority with his jab and landed two right uppercuts in the second round.

Smith landed by far the more blows in the opening rounds, but Holzken bloodied Smith’s nose with a flurry of punches in the third.

Holzken might not have the experience as a boxer, but he has boxed all over the world — including Las Vegas — as a kickboxer and he was not overawed by the occasion. The Dutchman started the fourth confidently, but he could not escape the accuracy of Smith’s punches and snaking jab.

Smith won the first four rounds, but in the fifth Holzken had some success with hooks. It was not enough to win the round, and Smith continued to dictate the fight behind his jab.

Despite the steady stream of punches flying his way, Holzken’s appetite never waned and he landed the occasional good shot.

Holzken showed his toughness by absorbing a thudding right uppercut in the 11th round, but Smith had to deal with some pressure in the final round. Holzken can be proud of his performance after stepping in at late notice, but Smith was always in control.

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