Boxing News At Five

Boxing News at Five: Smith moving up to face Kovalev a “possibility”, ‘Chunky’ DeGale calls Groves a “doughnut”

James DeGale opponent
Action Images/Matthew Childs
Callum Smith is open to moving up in weight and challenging Sergey Kovalev, while James DeGale is still annoyed by the recently retired George Groves

LIVERPOOL’S Callum Smith is gunning for unification fights at super-middleweight following his seventh-round stoppage of George Groves last September but is also happy to entertain the idea of moving up a division and fighting a Russian light-heavyweight.

The Russian light-heavyweight in question is Sergey Kovalev, back in the game after last weekend’s revenge victory over Eleider Alvarez, and Joe Gallagher, Smith’s coach, insists a meeting of Smith and the WBO light-heavyweight king could be a possibility if they find themselves running dry at 12 stone.

“The unification fights, that’s what we want, that’s what we’ve said to [promoter] Eddie Hearn,” Gallagher told Sky Sports.

“They’re the big fights we want, and even with Kovalev winning at the weekend, there’s a possibility if no one wants to dance with us at super-middleweight, that we’d move up and fight Kovalev. I think that would get everyone excited. They’re the type of fights we want for Callum Smith.

“Callum Smith became the number one in the world last year. He’s become a dad, he’s back in the gym now and he’s itching to get out. I’m wanting Callum to fight April, May time, whether that’s here in the UK or in America. But we want the big unification fights.”

Smith, the WBA champion at super-middleweight, shares his coach’s enthusiasm. He too is energised by the prospect of meaningful, career-defining fights, be it at super-middleweight or light-heavyweight.

“Now I’m getting back in the gym, and I had a meeting with Eddie last week which got me a little bit excited,” Smith said.

“Just speaking about certain opponents and venues and stuff, I’ve got the buzz back again and I’m at the point where I want to come to the gym, I want to train, I want to fight.

“I’m ranked number one in the world, but I still believe I have to cement that, and prove that by beating some of the other champions, which is on the to-do list.”

Callum Smith

There is no longer a chance James DeGale and George Groves settle their differences inside a boxing ring – following Groves’ recent retirement – but that doesn’t mean the hatchet is going to necessarily be buried.

In fact, as DeGale prepares for a February 23 fight with Chris Eubank Jr, the talk remains of Groves and their rivalry and the rematch that never was. Irked by it, DeGale has resorted to labelling his old Dale Youth ABC gym mate – someone who has beaten him both as an amateur and pro – a “proper horrible geezer” and a “doughnut”.

“I just read an article where George said he announced his retirement at the time to try to flatten me before my next fight with Chris Eubank Jr,” the former IBF champion told The Sun.

“That is George Groves all over; he is just not a nice guy. With me and him it is, and always will be, a competition but you cannot compare me and George Groves.

“Look at my achievements, the money I have earned, the names on my record… you cannot compare us. Let’s forget George Groves anyway. He’s a doughnut and a proper horrible geezer.”

A strange old rivalry, that one. When they first met, all the way back in 2011, both were green and still finding their feet in the pro game. The fight saw neither man at their best. Bizarrely, though, had Groves stuck around and obliged DeGale’s rematch request, they would presumably have met in 2019, at a time when both are perhaps past their best.

The eight years in between, I suppose, would have been a good period in which to do the rematch – if either were that way inclined.

George Groves James DeGale

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