Boxing – Support ‘St George’ in Friday night title fight

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BOXING analyst Nick Munday (@NM_Sport) shares his betting thoughts on Friday night’s bout between George Groves and Callum Smith

George Groves v Callum Smith | Friday 28th September 2018, 21:00 | ITV Box Office

The World Boxing Super Series has been a breath of fresh air for boxing fans. We’ve already seen Oleksandr Usyk crowned as the best cruiserweight on the planet, and now the number one super-middleweight will be crowned.

Despite the tournament decider featuring two Brits, the lucrative clash takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday night. That means no ring girls and no ‘Sweet Caroline’!

George Groves puts his WBA title on the line, while the prestigious Ring Magazine belt and the Muhammad Ali Trophy are also up for grabs.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) was the number one seed when the competition began a year ago, and so far, the Londoner has shown why with dominant victories against domestic rivals Jamie Cox (KO4) and Chris Eubank Jr (UD).

That gruelling semi-final win over Eubank Jr in February came at a price though, after he dislocated his shoulder in the final round and required surgery.

Unbeaten challenger Callum Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) was made to work hard during two unanimous decision victories over tough quarter-finalist Erik Skoglund, and then former kickboxer Nieky Holzken, who was a late replacement for February’s other semi-final.

‘Mundo’ has progressed well since turning pro, picking up British, Commonwealth and European titles at 168lbs, but this is without a doubt a significant step up in class.

“[Groves] has done what every boxer dreamed, so I do credit him for that,” Smith told The Telegraph. “But I do feel in doing all that he’s put a lot of miles on the clock. He’s an old 30-year-old and there’s only so many times you can put your body through it.

It’s true that Groves has been in some tough scraps, including high profile defeats to Carl Froch and Badou Jack. However, that elite level experience will stand him in good stead for this clash, and he’s currently enjoying a three year, seven-fight unbeaten streak.

In May 2017 he lifted the WBA crown in impressive fashion when beating up Fedor Chudinov, and he seems to be hitting his peak under trainer Shane McGuigan.

On the other hand, Smith’s career seems to have stalled slightly. Despite earning mandatory status for the WBC world 18 months ago, this will be his first world title challenge.

Before the WBSS started, Smith recorded emphatic stoppage wins over Rocky Fielding (2015) and Luke Blackledge (2016), but also boxed some poor opposition around that time.

The betting angles

The two unknowns here relate to Groves’ shoulder recovery, and the fact that we still don’t know how good Smith really is or can be.

As expected, the champion is a slight favourite at 8/11 (Betfair), and Smith will have his backers at 11/8 considering his notable size and reach advantage.

If you’re unconvinced by Groves’ recovery and think the challenger will make a statement, then a win for Smith between Rounds 9-12 is a juicy 14/1 at Ladbrokes.

At Tuesday’s public workout, the Liverpudlian stuck to the usual shadow boxing and light skipping, but Groves opted for some pad work to show off his sharp and stinging jab, as if to prove that his shoulder is fit and firing.

Groves’ main weapon is the jab – which is probably the best in the division – and he will take comfort from the way Skoglund landed plenty of these on Smith last September. That jab, as well as his greater experience, will be key for ‘Saint George’ to earn a hard-fought decision, which is best priced at 2/1 (Sportingbet).

With odds of 5/6 quickly gobbled up earlier this week, shorter priced punters should take the 8/11 on the Hammersmith man.

Best Bets

George Groves v Callum Smith – George Groves to win (8/11 Betfair)

George Groves v Callum Smith – George Groves to win on points (2/1 Sportingbet)

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