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What’s next for Callum Smith?

‘Mundo’ tops the 168-pound division after a dramatic knockout of George Groves on Friday.

Callum Smith v Erik Skoglund: Super Middleweight Quarter-Final - World Boxing Super Series Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

Often referred to as the most talented of Liverpool’s Smith brothers, Callum, now 25-0, enjoyed his breakout fight on Friday night. As ‘Mundo’ claimed the WBA (Super), WBC diamond, Ring Magazine and Muhammad Ali Trophy in a controlled, stylish knockout of former champion George Groves (28-4), the super middleweight division woke up after sleeping on the 28-year-old for the past two years.

Before signing up with the World Boxing Super Series, Callum Smith was becoming frustrated at his lack of opportunities in the sport. Sealing a mandatory position for the WBC 168-pound strap after a first round destruction of Hadillah Mohoumadi in 2016, Smith’s chance never came as boxing politics stood in his way. A title fight with Anthony Dirrell was delayed, delayed, and postponed as David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril got given the chance to fight for the vacant WBC strap which Smith waited almost two years to contest.

The WBSS provided an opportunity for Smith to escape the charades of boxing politics, and fight in a tournament which he knew he could win. A win that would guarantee him a version of the super-middleweight world championship.

The rest is history. Wins over Skoglund, Holzken and Groves have seen Smith become the man to beat at super-middle, with thoughts now turning to the 2019 and the possible next steps for the youngest Smith brother. It’s time for Smith to continue riding this wave; his list of possible opponents is compelling.

How Smith continues to make 168-pounds is beyond me. Groves is big for the weight, however, inside the ring in Jeddah on Friday night, the former-champion was dwarfed by Smith’s frame. Smith will surely move up to light-heavy - especially if the sanctioning bodies follow the IBF’s rehydration ruling - in the next couple of years, but until then the Liverpudlian will have his sights set on sweeping the division. Who’s next?

David Benavidez

WBA king David Benavidez is already looking like the front-runner for Smith’s first attempt in unifying super-middleweight straps. Speaking after the fight in Jeddah, Smith stated: “If the fight can be made, I’m sure it would be a good one”, in relation to fighting ‘El Bandera Roja’.

Benavidez hasn’t fought since besting Ronald Gavril for the second time inside five months. This latest victory came in a unanimous victory on February 17, however, after a potential return in July was put on hold, Benavidez may be looking straight towards a unification bout with Smith early next year; there were rumours that the WBC champ was in line to replace Groves in the WBSS final after concerns over the ‘Saint’s’ shoulder injury.

Benavidez’s return looks set to be delayed even further after testing positive for cocaine a fortnight ago. With a defence against Anthony Dirrell expected to be announced for November/December, time will tell whether the titlist is stripped, suspended or other by the WBC. To be continued...

Jose Uzcategui

IBF champ Jose Uzcategui (27-2) returned to action this past weekend in nothing but a tick-over fight. The Venezuelan made hard work of Ezequiel Maderna in a fight that should never have gone the distance.

Uzcategui claimed his strap in an 8th round retirement of Andre Dirrell in March, after gaining a rematch after a disputed DQ loss 10 months previous.

Uzcategui has made a name for himself on British shores as the man that James DeGale vacated to avoid. At 6ft 1”, the stature of ‘Bolivita’ will prove harder to manage for Smith than the shorter super-middles he has beaten comfortably; Smith struggled with 6ft 1” Skoglund at times in his quarter-final bout.

Gilberto Ramirez (38-0)

’Mundo’ vs ‘Zurdo’: something Marvel could lay claim to.

The Mexican southpaw has held the WBO title since dethroning Arthur Abraham in 2016. Since then, successful - yet underwhelming - defences against Max Bursak, Jesse Hart, Habib Ahmed and Roamer Alexis Angulo have seen him cling onto his gold with ease.

Ramirez wouldn’t give any height away to Smith if the pair met, with both titlists clinging onto life at 168-pounds. This could be a hard sell in the UK - assuming Smith and Matchroom want a unification bout in Liverpool - however, if Smith is thrown into DAZN waters, this fight becomes a real possibility stateside.

James DeGale/Chris Eubank Jr.

With rumours circulating that DeGale and Eubank will face off this December, a fight against the winner would elevate Smith’s standings in the UK. Neither DeGale or Eubank sell many tickets, but they are arguably more well known to the casual market than ‘Mundo’. DeGale is nearing retirement and Eubank is nearing a move down to 160-pounds, you’d have to believe that the Smith we saw on Friday night could dissect either of these two.

Rocky Fielding

You can just see it now: Who’s Fooling Who II. WBA “world” champ Rocky Fielding was obliterated inside a round by Smith when these two fought back in 2015. This wouldn’t stop Eddie Hearn from returning to the Liverpudlian grudge match, bringing it to Anfield football stadium, and selling it as an early pay-per-view in 2019.

Fielding was superb in dethroning Tyron Zeuge in Germany this July, however, ‘Rocky from Stocky’s’ credentials still fall short in warranting a rematch.

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