GEORGE GROVES is boxing Callum Smith in the final of the World Boxing Super Series. Both are British and you’d expect a fight of this magnitude to be taking place in London, Liverpool or Manchester. But on Friday September 28 they will be contesting the WBA super-middleweight title at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The setting is unexpected but there is a substantial financial incentive for the World Boxing Super Series to stage the super-middleweight final in Jeddah. “It’s obviously a place at the moment that’s very competitive at the moment in terms of getting big events down there, WWE, UFC,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said. “We think this could be the start of something big down there. There’s not a promoter on this planet of any meaning who hasn’t travelled down to that region to try to put on boxing.
“I draw parallels to the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ and the ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ that’s not comparing anyone to [Muhammad] Ali just to make that clear, what I am comparing it to is bringing a big fight to a totally different region.”
“I’ve tried it as an individual promoter. We’ve obviously sold hosting rights this season in Moscow, Sochi, Riga, Jeddah, that’s a hell of a lot. So it must be something about the [World Boxing Super Series] brand,” Sauerland said.
It will be unusual for a boxing event, alcohol will not be consumed and there will be no ringcard girls. There was concern about women being forbidden from entering the arena.
Groves said, “I asked Kalle if my wife can sit ringside and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah of course.’ But Kalle says that about everything. I’ve asked if he’s sure and he says yes.
“If it’s about how you dress then that’s obviously no problem but I think for this sort of boxing event [normally] they wouldn’t allow women to come. We’re covered, though, there is a lot of misinformation out there as well – it’s usually trying to find someone with some first-hand experience of it all.”
“She’s the best fan I’ve ever had really. I get people come up to me and say ‘I’ve been there since the [Carl] Froch fights’ and I think ‘oh cheers mate’. She was there at York Hall on a non-TV show for my second fight,” Groves continued. “I’m not superstitious any more but it’s totally up to her. We’ve got a young baby anyway so we are keeping our options open but if she wants to come she can come.
“There will be a few regular faces from my fights who won’t be able to make it and that will be disappointing but ultimately I just want to get on with the business.”
The champion maintains his focus will not be disrupted. “This is what it means when people talk about experience. I’ve had stuff like this happen before. Things haven’t been perfect in the build-up but you get it done, you get on with the job, I’ve been good at that lately,” Groves said.
Smith would have been hoping for a big fight against domestic rival in front of raucous crowd. He will have to adjust to going to Saudi Arabia. “The tournament, it’s been brilliant for me and my career, it’s been fantastic. But it isn’t ideal, especially for a big domestic fight. It’s a fight I feel British fans should have a chance to go and see it. I would probably be able to count on one hand how many Brits are in the venue. It’s a shame for them to be honest with you. From the outside looking in, George Groves it is a good fight, it’s a fight people want to see. On social media, when there was talk of maybe it not happening, the demand for it was big. So I think the demand to watch it will be even bigger. It’s not ideal but it wasn’t a big shock to me or Joe [Gallagher, his trainer]. The Champions League final was in Kiev this year with a British and Spanish team and they’re going off that kind of layout. We always felt we were the guinea pigs for season one. There were a lot of questions about will it work, will it won’t [work]. For me it has worked so far,” Callum said.
“That decision [the location of the fight] was taken out of my and George’s hands a long time ago.”