By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
We heard the rumblings of this a couple of months ago, but it has now been confirmed that the WBA “Regular” Super Middleweight Champion, Germany’s Tyron Zeuge, will make a defence on June 17th in Wetzlar, against a man who has failed in two previous title attempts against Arthur Abraham, and who has gone 3-3 in his last six fights, in Liverpool’s Paul Smith. The Sauerland’s promote the contest, presumably in some sort of conjunction with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, as Smith is aligned with Hearn.
The match has caused much controversy and negative comment on social media, especially as Smith has magically appeared like a new entry in the music charts at number five within the latest WBA rankings, despite not fighting anyone with a world ranking, or near a world ranking for nearly two years, and even then he was comprehensively beaten, albeit by pound for pound star, Andre Ward, when stopped in nine in Oakland in June 2015. Even more bizarrely Smith’s last three opponents have a combined record of 63-51-5, hardly the form to put you into contention with the World Champions in the division. Smith’s best win would arguably over Liverpool rival, Tony Dodson, in both 2010, via unanimous decision, and a sixth round stoppage victory three years later over a much faded version of Dodson. This probably tells you all you need to know about the Zeuge v Smith matchup.
In all fairness, the blame cannot all be squarely at Smith’s door. He is simply taking a good financial opportunity, as well as a World Title on the line for good measure.
Every time the 34 year old Smith has made the step up at any level, he has been defeated. In June 2008, he met Steve Bendall, who was 28-4 at the time, for the English Super Middleweight Title, in a match he was fully expected to win. Bendall didn’t read the script and used his experience to grind out a two point victory on the referee’s scorecard. Although Smith did rebound from this and picked up the British Super Middleweight Title, he lost it in his second defence to the gifted current IBF World Champion, James DeGale, stopped in nine one sided rounds in December 2010. Three fights later he tasted defeat again, this time in two rounds against an up and coming George Groves for the British and Commonwealth Crowns. Groves landed a solid roundhouse right to the temple, and Smith was never able to fully recover, and was stopped by referee Victor Loughlin. After beating journeyman Tommy Tolan in four, he regained the British Title, stopping Dodson in six in Bolton. Wins over the 10-52-2 Jamie Ambler (6 rounds points win), and the 7-3-2 David Sarabia (TKO2) somehow then propelled Smith into a World Title chance against the WBO Super Middleweight Champion, Arthur Abraham, in Kiel, Germany.
Although there were close rounds, and it was tough to score at times, Abraham unanimously triumphed on the cards and widely. Team Smith were outraged by the decision and lobbied for a rematch, which was granted by the WBO five months later in Berlin. Abraham again unanimously prevailed, leaving no doubt this time, even though the scorecards were slightly tighter.
You would be forgiven for thinking that Smith would then need to rebuild and get some decent wins before mixing in World Class again following the back to back Abraham defeats. Somehow though, Andre Ward was left without a dance partner for his comeback fight in June 2015, and Smith was the man chosen for the job. In a match made at a 172lbs catchweight, Smith weighed a whopping 4.4lbs over this limit, and forfeited 20% of his purse as a consequence. The extra weight didn’t matter though in the end as Ward broke Smith’s nose and was ruthless in a ninth round stoppage win.
Since this one sided contest, smith has seemingly now got the chance at Zeuge’s WBA Title following a 3-0 run against 18-18-2 Bronislav Kubin (TKO3) Bartlomiej Grafka 17-20-3 (6 Round Points Win) and 28-13 Daniel Regi (TKO5). All three fights were six round contests against vastly inferior opposition, and added to this, his last fight was in September last year, so this also begs the question how the WBA even have Smith in their rankings, after being inactive for over eight months!
This leaves a sense of injustice, as I’m sure it does for all of the other contenders currently in the WBA rankings. The rankings are as below, taken from the WBA website:
|11||GIOVANNI DE CAROLIS||ITA|
Although there are some unworthy names in there at present at the moment, even Giovanni De Carolis, who drew and lost to Zeuge in two highly competitive matches for the WBA belt, unbelievably sits six places below Smith in the rankings.
I guess we shouldn’t blame Smith, we should be looking at the WBA instead, as its their wretched ranking system that has caused this uproar. It is however, almost impossible to make a case for Smith earning the shot at the title however. Maybe the WBA are swayed by whichever title match which can be made that makes the most financial sense to the organisation, I don’t know. But this has left a sour taste in the mouth, the match will still garner interest by fans intrigued by what will happen in the fight itself. If we look at the Heavyweight picture with the WBA, I guess the above seems less surprising. Shannon Briggs fighting Fres Oquendo for their regular belt and it’s not early year 2000’s pretty much sums up the way they are operating at present!
There is a month to go until we find out if Paul can join brother Liam in becoming a World Champion, I’m sure there will be many more bizarre stories from the four main organisations to keep us entertained and amused during this time.
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