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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

George Groves: Winning in Saudi Arabia would be pinnacle of my career

The boxer is confident he will be the one to lift the Muhammad Ali Trophy when he faces Callum Smith in Jeddah on Friday

George Groves, left, with opponent Callum Smith, is confident of being the first winner of the Muhammad Ali Trophy on Friday in Jeddah. Action Images via Reuters
George Groves, left, with opponent Callum Smith, is confident of being the first winner of the Muhammad Ali Trophy on Friday in Jeddah. Action Images via Reuters

Back fit and in fighting form, George Groves is determined to land a succession of titles on Friday by winning the inaugural World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final in Saudi Arabia – a feat he says would represent the pinnacle of his career thus far.

The Englishman, the current WBA world champion, takes on compatriot Callum Smith at the Indoor Sports Hall at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, the first time the Kingdom has hosted a boxing event of this magnitude.

The bout, against the reigning WBC Diamond belt holder, sounds the bell on the conclusion of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), an eight-fighter elimination event that launched last September. The final is run in conjunction with the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority.

For Groves, 30, it marks a return to the ring following the dislocated shoulder he sustained in the semi-final victory against Chris Eubank Jr in February. The injury delayed the WBSS final beyond this summer.

However, Groves declared himself in prime condition for his third WBA title defence, against an opponent yet to contest a world-title fight. The winner on Friday will also add to their collection the Muhammad Ali Trophy – awarded to the WBSS champion - and the coveted Ring Magazine crown.

"It’s great to finally be two days away from the fight,” said Groves on Wednesday at a packed conference room in the Radisson Blu Al Salam hotel in Jeddah.

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“We’ve had a great camp in the end. It took a long time to get back to full fitness, but we’re there. Everything has gone as good as it possibly could.

“We’re good, we’re happy, we’re stable and ready to fight. After such a long training camp and a long time since my last win, I can’t wait to collect some new belts and become champion of the Ali Trophy.”

The fight constitutes Groves’ biggest since his 2014 rematch with Carl Froch and was made possible after he defeated Jamie Cox in the WBSS quarter-finals last October and then Eubank Jr in the last four.

“I’ve been in some real big fights as a professional, numerous world title fights,” said Groves, whose record reads (28-3, 20 KOs). “I recently became WBA world champion, I recently became ranked No 1 in the division. And seeing what’s up for grabs this time round, the Ring Magazine belt, the WBC Diamond Championship and obviously the Super Series title.

“This is a tournament that’s only in Year One, but everyone is extremely excited about it. It’s going to become a very prestigious thing to not only win, but to be associated with. I’ve just got to make sure I win it, and win it well, and stake my claim as No 1. That’s why I believe it will be the pinnacle of my career so far.”

Smith, though, forms a formidable opponent. The 28 year old is undefeated with 24 wins from 24 including 17 by way of knockout, while he comes from quality fighting stock: his four brothers have all fought world championship bouts.

“It’s a massive opportunity,” said Smith, sitting alongside Groves. “Every boxer starts boxing to become a world champion. And I was no different, I believed in my abilities to take me to the very top.

“Friday night I get the chance to be there. There’s a lot of stake, but that’s why I turned professional, for fights like this. It will take a big performance. World title fights don’t come easy. I’ve had a very good camp; pushed my body to the limits. I’m in a good place and ready to do what I’m here for.”