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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Callum Smith's win over George Groves in Saudi Arabia 'long time coming'

Englishman, contesting first world-title fight, stops compatriot in stunning fashion in seventh round at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah

From a reputable fighting family, Callum Smith had entered to WBSS to finally give himself a shot at a world title following a series of setbacks. AFP
From a reputable fighting family, Callum Smith had entered to WBSS to finally give himself a shot at a world title following a series of setbacks. AFP

Callum Smith crowned an historic night in Saudi Arabia on Friday by defeating WBA world super-weight champion George Groves with an emphatic knockout to win the inaugural World Boxing Super Series.

The Englishman, contesting his first world-title fight, stopped his compatriot in stunning fashion in the seventh round at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, a night in which professional boxing debuted in the Kingdom.

Smith, 28, rocked Groves with a left hook before flooring him with a body shot in his rival’s own corner. In winning, Smith becomes the first World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) champion and was awarded the Muhammad Ali Trophy, while he also added the WBA strap and Ring Magazine belt to his WBC Diamond crown. He is undefeated in his 25 professional bouts.

From a reputable fighting family, Smith had entered to WBSS to finally give himself a shot at a world title following a series of setbacks.

"It has been a long time coming and there have been times where you doubt if a chance will come,” a jubilant Smith said in the ring afterwards. "I know how good I am and knew I had the ability. I had a slow couple of years and people forgot about me. I think tonight I reminded people.

"I felt I was ahead at the time of the stoppage. I feel like I was beating him at his own game: it was a boxing match at range. I got my big shots off first and he couldn't take it.

"Credit to Groves, he has been a great champion. Whether he carries on or not, I'd like to wish him good luck. I waited so long. It just means everything. I am not a man who shows a lot of emotion - you never see me ecstatic - but you can see tonight it is a lifetime of work all gone into one."

At 30, and having recently returned from a serious shoulder injury, Groves will undoubtedly face questions about his future. Ranked the No 1 super-middleweight in the world going into the fight, he appeared hurt in the third round after a strong right hand from Smith.

However, when the stoppage came, two of the four judges had Groves ahead on the cards, with one marking the fight level. As it was, the Londoner’s 16-month reign as WBA champion was halted in devastating style.

"It was not meant to be,” Groves said. “Full credit to Callum. He boxed well, heavy-handed. He got me with a body shot at the end, which is embarrassing for me, because I've never been dropped with a body shot in my life. But he got the decisive shot in the end.

“I'm not going to make excuses. The shoulder worked and Callum was the better man on the night. That's tough for me to say, but I have to be honest."

Asked about what was next, Groves denied he was thinking of retirement, adding: "I'm going to have a long rest because it's been a dogged year. I won the world title just over a year ago, but I want to go home because I miss my wife and kids."

Earlier in the night, the fervent home support was given something to cheer when Saudi fighters Julaidah Abdulfatah and Zuhayr Al Qahtani won their respective bouts, both by unanimous decision.

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