UNBEATEN super-middleweight contender Callum Smith hopes to vindicate his decision to withdraw from a world title fight by winning the inaugural World Boxing Super Series tournament.
The Liverpudlian was set to box Anthony Dirrell in September for the vacant WBC title, but attempts from the American to change the date and venue left him frustrated.
Instead, he will box in the knockout-style tournament with his first contest being against unbeaten Erik Skoglund in September.
“The world title’s always the aim but if I win this tournament then it proves my decision to leave the world title fight and come to this was a good decision. It’s a gamble, but one that I wouldn’t have took if I didn’t believe I was capable of winning the whole thing,” he said.
“I’ve got a chance to prove I’m the best of the eight fighters out there, I’ve got dates in front of me whereas I haven’t had that over the past year, it was always up in the air, but this tournament guarantees me fights and, provided I keep winning, it guarantees me three fights, which is what I want. I want to get back to fighting and fighting the best in the division and this tournament is perfect for that.”
The super-middleweight class for the Super Series also includes WBA champion George Groves, though he and Smith are on opposite sides of the bracket and so can only meet in the final, which is set to take place next May. Groves fights fellow Brit Jamie Cox in his first bout of the tournament.
Smith has been the WBC No 1 challenger for well over a year now, and when Dirrell started trying to shift things around, ‘Mundo’ worried that his chance may never come at all.
“Yeah, massively, it took a long time to get done and when it was finally confirmed the dates were getting moved back and back and I felt like it was just going further and further away from me,” he said.
“Then the tournament was offered and it was a tough decision but I feel like I’ve made the right choice.
“I feel like I’ve matured a lot over the past couple of years. I raced to a certain point in my career, got a lot of early wins, but the last two years have allowed me to settle down more. Although I haven’t been as active, I’ve been in the gym, I’m still learning and improving. I feel I’m becoming a man and I’m more mature mentally and physically. I’m a better fighter than I was two years ago.”
Not only will the winner of the tournament be the WBA champion, they will also have a much bigger profile and be in a position of power when it comes to negotiations. Smith stops short of saying the victor will be the best 168lb fighter in the world, given that IBF champion James DeGale and WBO king Gilberto Ramirez are not involved.
He said: “Possibly, but obviously there’s two other champions that aren’t in the tournament. I think the winner of this is in with a very good shout of being the best super-middleweight in the world but I think the winner of this will probably go on and fight the other champions. So by next year we’ll know who the best is and hopefully it’s me.”