JEDDAH: Prompting inevitable speculation about possible retirement plans, George Groves said that beating fellow Englishman Callum Smith in the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final on Friday night in Jeddah would be the pinnacle of his career.
Groves is defending his WBA Super-Middleweight belt, and has the opportunity to add to it the highly coveted Ring Magazine crown and Smith’s WBC Diamond title, along with the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy for the WBSS champion.
Facing the media on Wednesday for the final time before they do battle at King Abdullah Sports City Arena, both fighters were confident of victory in a contest that will decide the best super-middleweight boxer in the world.
The historic fight night marks the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted a major boxing match, as the country continues to open up to sporting and entertainment events and hopes to raise the profile of a sport that has produced few professionals from the region.
Groves, who holds a professional record of 28 wins and three losses, said he believes the desert stars are lining up just right for him at this point in a career during which he has been involved in some of the more memorable title bouts in recent history.
“I've been in some real big fights as a professional, numerous world title fights, and recently became WBA world champion and number one in the division,” he said. “I have to make sure I win it, stake my claim, and I believe it will be the pinnacle of my career so far.”
Friday night’s contest will be the first for Groves since he beat Chris Eubank Jr. on points in the semi-final of the WBSS in February, despite clearly dislocating his shoulder in a flurry of exchanges during the final round of the bout. He dismissed any lingering concerns from critics regarding his condition of his shoulder.
“It took a long time to get back to full fitness but everything has gone as good as it possibly could,” he said. “The shoulder is working. I am No.1 in the division and proud of it, plus the favorite going into this fight. I was the No.1 seed when the tournament started. I am going to win and I am going to win well. We are in a great place.”
Smith, who has an unblemished record of 24-0, relishes the chance to stake his claim to a place in the boxing history books with his first world-title fight.
“I’m excited. There is a lot at stake,” he said. “Win this fight I will have achieved what I always wanted to achieve. Every boxer starts boxing to become a world champion. On Friday night I get the chance to be there. There’s a lot at stake but that’s why I turned professional. I am so close to finally doing it all.”
Smith, who comes from a family of boxers (four of his brothers are professional fighters) was full of praise for the Saudi people and the authorities for the welcome he has received in Jeddah.
“We have been so well received by the Saudi people,” he said. “We couldn’t have been looked after better or by more friendly and hospitable people. It’s a pleasure to go for a stroll in the streets among the locals.
“Everything out here has been better than expected, you know? I have never been here before but the food has been fantastic, the people have been lovely and our accommodation is great.”
Smith, who arrived in Jeddah on Friday for his final fight preparations, said he was pleased with how well he and his team have adjusted to their new, unfamiliar surroundings.
“We did the set-up over the weekend and it feels like I am at home.,” he said. “I could be anywhere in the world as long as my family is with me. I am good — I woke up this morning as a happy person.”
Friday night also marks the hometown debut of Saudi Arabia’s own Zuhayr Al-Qahtani. The London-based boxer, who has a 4-0 record, will battle Giorgi Gviniashvili, from Georgia, on the undercard.