(Photo Credit: World Boxing News)
By Paul Mason
Come the end of Saturday night, we will know all four finalists from the excellent World Boxing Super Series in both the Super Middleweight and Cruiserweight tournaments.
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk and Russia’s Murat Gassiev, both unbeaten, will contest the Cruiserweight Final in Saudi Arabia in May, with the WBC,WBA,IBF and WBO belts on the line. This Saturday sees the remaining semi-final in the Super Middleweight tournament where Liverpool’s Callum Smith was scheduled to meet Germany’s Jürgen Braehmer for the right to contest the final against Hammersmith’s WBA (Super) and IBO boss, George Groves.
George Groves is fresh off his convincing points win over Chris Eubank Junior in Manchester last weekend. It remains to be seen whether Groves can take his place in the final, due to a dislocated shoulder, with Junior reportedly waiting in the wings to deputise.
However, a common occurrence throughout the German’s career has come around again. Braehmer has withdrawn with under one weeks notice, just as he did when fights were arranged with Beibut Shumenov and Nathan Cleverly in the past, leaving the unbeaten, but unknown Dutchman Nieky Holzken to deputise and try and claim the golden ticket to the final. This time Braehmer has cited flu’ as the reason he is unable to box in Nuremberg this weekend. This represents the first withdrawal from the tournament, at the penultimate stage.
ITV Box office pick up the UK television rights.
Here I preview the contest.
Callum Smith (23-0, KO17) v Nieky Holzken (13-0, KO10)– 12 Rounds, World Boxing Super Series Semi Final
Callum Smith puts his unbeaten record on the line for a place in the final of the so far enthralling World Boxing Super Series at Super Middleweight. He also travels to what would have been his original opponents home country, specifically Nuremburg, Germany, where he was to meet Jurgen Braehmer in the semi-finals of the tournament. Last time out, Smith defeated Erik Skoglund in Liverpool, while Braehmer overcame Rob Brant in their respective quarter finals. But Braehmer being Braehmer, he has spectacularly pulled out at the eleventh hour during fight week, leaving Dutchman Nieky Holzken to fill the void left. It remains to be seen if the WBC “Diamond” Belt will be on the line seen as Holzken wouldn’t be figuring high up in their rankings.
Smith turned professional in November 2012, joining his three other brothers, Paul, Liam and Stephen in becoming professional boxers. Liam has gone on to become WBO Super Welterweight Champion, while Stephen and Paul have challenged for World Titles. All four have been British Champion at some point in their careers. Callum is rated the best of the four brothers by his own brothers, so the potential and pressure on him is high. Callum defeated Dan Blackwell over four rounds on debut in Nottingham. After the usual diet of continental journeymen, Smith captured the English Super Middleweight Title by stopping Patrick Mendy inside a round, which made a lot more people sit up and take note.
Six more fights down the WBC International route followed, before “Mundo” outpointed former World Title challenger, Nikola Sjekloca over twelve in November 2014. After a one round blowout win over Oleg Fedotovs, Smith outscored Christopher Rebrasse to pick up the WBC Silver Title, enhancing his ranking with the governing body in the process.
Paul Smith then vacated his British Title, allowing Callum and Rocky Fielding to contest it in an all Liverpool dust up at the Echo Arena in November 2015. Smith overwhelmed the hapless Fielding, stopping him inside one round. Five months later at the same venue, Smith picked up the European Title with another first round stoppage of the usually durable Hadillah Mahoumadi. In the three fights following this win, Smith appeared on big fight undercards, namely Bellew v Makubu at Goodison Park, where he beat Cesar Reynoso (TKO6), Golovkin v Brook at the O2, beating Norbert Nemesapati (RTD6) and finally on the Joshua v Molina bill in December 2016 in Manchester, knocking out Luke Blackledge in ten in defence of his British Title.
On the cusp of a World Title shot, Smith was entered into the World Boxing Super Series, and seeded second for the tournament. He met Swede Erik Skoglund, coming down from Light Heavyweight and unbeaten in 26, in Liverpool in the first quarter final. Early on, Smith was constantly outclassing his opponent. However, Skoglund got himself into the fight in the middle rounds behind his jab, bloodying Smith’s nose. Smith would come on strong again late in the fight, scoring a knockdown in round eleven and earning a clear unanimous decision, advancing to the semi-finals.
Journalists will be frantically trying to prepare any sort of information on Nieky Holzken (as have I!). He is a 34 year old Dutchman, with only 13 fights on his ledger, since turning over in March 2013. 12 of these contests have taken place in Holland, with 11 of them taking place in his hometown of Helmond. His only Title acquired thus far is the BeNeLux Super Middleweight Title, which he won via unanimous decision against the 20-9-1 Farouk Daku in February 2016. He has defended this once, against the 7-4 Matingu Kindele, again via unanimous decision. His opponents faced are best described as limited, with a lot more defeats that wins on their records, and this match up leaves the fight fan massively deflated.
My original prediction was that Smith would grind the ageing Braehmer down, but at least Braehmer has previous World Title credentials to make things relatively interesting. Even though I must confess to never hearing of Holzken, I can only envisage Smith forcing a stoppage within six rounds. The main objective for Smith is to get rid of Holzken and advance to the final of the Super Series with as little resistance as possible, and that should be the case this Saturday night.