The Big Question: Groves vs Smith - who wins?

Boxing Monthly
28/09/2018 9:29am

Ahead of tonight's World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between George Groves and Callum Smith members of the BM team are here with their picks and predictions...

At the beginning of the WBSS, I had Smith the marginal favourite, with Groves closely behind. As the competition progressed, I've become a 'St George' fan and as long as his shoulder is in good shape, I believe Groves will win on points, by about three rounds. Although I still rate Smith, Erik Skoglund identified weaknesses in his defence and also showed his power at this level was not perhaps as destructive as one might have originally thought. This was confirmed against the teak tough kickboxer from Holland, Nieky Holzken. Groves has shown he has one-punch knockout power, has adapted well to different opponents and has done well boxing behind his jab, instead of getting caught up in a dogfight - which was his old modus operandi. If he listens to instructions and that shoulder is fully functional, for me, he wins. - Paul Zanon

Groves has really shone during this tournament and he looks more than capable of overcoming Smith to win. All his previous setbacks will be overlooked in his eyes and his journey will complete if he can get the job done here. With such a massive payday on offer and after beating several big names along the way, he might decide to call it a day and ride off into the sunset with success. I expect Groves to outpoint Smith quite comfortably, providing his shoulder is healed fully and it doesn't give him any more trouble. Groves by unanimous decision then in a learning fight for the youngest Smith brother. - Lee Gormley

This is a very close, tough-to-call, pick 'em fight. I thought Groves winning a world title would see him plateau - as if finally winning it would be the pinnacle, but he's proved me wrong so far (although, I have to say, this is a rare occasion where the WBA 'Super' championship is actually the 'fake' version of the belt, and the real champ is the regular holder). I feel like Groves deserves to be backed as the winner and as long as his shoulder is OK he'll win via a points decision - thus setting up a unification or two or a big DeGale rematch as he closes out his career. However, on the flip side I picked Smith to win the competition when it was first announced, and I wonder if 'the wolf climbing the hill is hungrier than the wolf on top': Smith has had to wait so long for the world title opportunity he first earned two years ago that I think he's been a little under-motivated in the interim. He has all the physical tools to win, and I think a sense of purpose since entering the tournament. While he may suffer some 'stage fright', I think Smith will battle his way back into the contest after Groves stamps his early authority, and it'll go down to the wire. I certainly don't see any early finishes in this one, only a close points decision: I don't want to pick against Groves, but I think I will. The status of the shoulder injury could be the deciding factor, but I'm going with Smith on points, by the skin of his teeth. - Colin Harris

Firstly, it's great to see Smith in a fight of this magnitude. It is long overdue. Secondly, I picked Groves to win the tournament at the beginning and nothing has changed my mind. He has momentum, piles of confidence and the kind of experience that will be pivotal in a fight like this. The location and the prize won't do anything to disrupt Grove who is in the form of his life and is as relaxed as ever. The Groves' jab is key to him in every fight. That is the foundation for how he performs and I can see it being the underlying factor in him winning on points. Risks will be minimal, he will go for the finish if it is there but the win - however it happens - is what matters. Smith can't be completely ruled out and possesses attributes that can upset Groves; height, reach, power, body shots... he has more than enough to give Groves a testing night's work, but it's whether or not he will be allowed to use them from the off. I worry for him if he's behind early doors and has to chase the fight because Groves will wait and wait and wait and set traps in the meantime. A fast start for Smith is crucial, he has to get Groves' respect. In conclusion, I believe Groves will cap off a memorable run since winning his world title to take the Ali Trophy, the plaudits and the money before looking for a couple more marquee fights leading to retirement. It's all about the jab and patience for Groves. Both of which he knows how to use superbly. Groves via unanimous decision. - Shaun Brown

Whilst he is nowhere near as fundamentally flawed as Eubank Jr, Smith is still completely unproven at this level and at times he has looked a bit robotic and upright. How Groves has recovered from the shoulder injury is a complete unknown and could come into play during the bout. I think we're in for quite a cagey chess match with both boxers trying to establish the jab. I'm going with experience to prevail and Groves to take a unanimous decision. - Marcus Bellinger

While the WBSS super-middleweight tournament never caught the imagination in the same way as the first cruiserweight season did, we’ve ended up with a very solid all-British match-up to close the show. Things could be a lot worse. In terms of a prediction, it’s a fight for which I’ve never wavered - it’s Groves for me. The big caveat is that shoulder, and not only whether it’s healed fully, but whether it can withstand another tough 12 rounds. Assuming it has, and it can, I can’t see past a Groves win via a competitive but fairly clear decision. Smith has numerous physical advantages, and is no doubt the fresher of the two, but there’s a nagging feeling that - injury permitting - Groves is probably now at the top of his game and Smith’s pedestrian run to the final might just work against him at this level. I’ll go Groves by 8-4-type scorecards in a fight that doesn’t quite deliver as we might have hoped. - Tom Craze

Super Middle is a division in which the British have a rich history with the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank (Sr) amongst others having enjoyed success at 168lbs. So it’s fitting that the final of the 12 stone WBSS tournament has two Brits face each other for the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the unofficial title of 'best super middleweight on the planet. Groves looked as good as finished after losing his third world title shot vs Badou Jack but after a run of seven straight wins he enters the final as favourite against a man in Smith who just hasn’t boxed at his level before. Smith looked destructive at domestic level and is clearly a very big super middle who has excellent fundamentals and a good variety of punching, however he hasn’t impressed when asked to step up, even though he’s undefeated, and vs Skoglund looked very open defensively. For this reason I expect Groves to start slow but establish his jab after three rounds and win a clear decision, albeit with a scare or two for good measure. - Callum Rudge

I believe I picked Smith as the favourite way back when the tournament line-up was originally announced (seems an age ago but it evidently wasn't!) However, I have been extremely unimpressed with the Liverpudlian. Skoglund and Holzken were decent fighters but I never felt like Smith went over and above against them - he did as well as he needed to, or perhaps as well as he could do, when they didn't fold to the power which looked destructive at domestic level. Groves, meanwhile, has looked calm, composed and a class above when disposing of his opponents, even if I felt beforehand that Eubank Jr was being overrated when you looked at his resume. If the shoulder is back to normal, I expect Groves to score a relatively lopsided points win.  - James Oddy

Smith has gone off the boil in the last couple of years, waiting for a WBC title shot that never came, trumping mediocre opposition in the early rounds of the WBSS and then facing a prolonged wait ahead of the final due to Groves' injury and logistical issues. We have no idea how Groves' shoulder will react under duress. Most fancy his jab and experience will be enough, but I feel Smith can still raise his level against better, possibly damaged, opposition and earn a close decision win. - Mark Butcher

It's Groves for me. Smith hasn’t impressed me sufficiently in his his two previous outings against Skoglund and late replacement  Holzken to convince me he will win. For a long time it felt like Groves was always destined to be the perennial nearly man, but securing a world title at the fourth attempt has kick-started something special. He doesn’t appear ready yet to surrender this hard-won crown and the feeling persists that the powerful Smith will need to find a knockout if he wishes to get past the Londoner. Groves has the look of a man at the top of his game, and if his troublesome shoulder behaves then I see him securing a solid points victory. Conversely, it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that Smith could take this weekend’s fight as an opportunity to finally announce himself and fulfil his abundant talent. It could prove to be his breakout opportunity, but in reality I am still firmly behind Groves. It’s a real shame that this all British match-up is taking place in the barren, boxing wasteland of Saudi Arabia. - Garry White

Groves is the pick ... in a fight that looks likely to go the full 12 rounds. - Graham Houston in his BM preview

Final tally: Groves 9 Smith 2