Liverpool’s Callum Smith is busy preparing for the biggest night of his boxing career to date against two-time world champion Jurgen Braehmer – the only snag is he still doesn’t know when, or indeed in which country, that fight will take place.
The #TeamMorson Ambassador has continued his training camp for the forthcoming World Boxing Super Series semi-final, knowing only that he’ll be fighting on either February 10 or a fortnight later. The contest is most likely to be held in Germany, but a neutral venue such as Denmark still hasn’t been ruled out.
“We have a rough idea of when it’s going to be, so we’ve just got to be professional, but it’s easier when you’ve got a date to work towards,” Callum explained. “I know the fight’s going to happen and I know you can’t have a final without two semi-finals, so I’ve got to just stay working with Joe [Gallagher] and be in the best shape possible. I need to be at my best to win so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m at my best.”
Regardless of the delay in announcing the fight, one thing that’s certain is there’ll be British interest in the final. The other semi is a mouth-watering showdown between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jnr in Manchester on February 17. There’s Smith family history with Groves, who knocked out Callum’s older brother Paul when they met at Wembley Arena in November 2011. A chance for revenge could be on the cards, or an opportunity to face Eubank Jnr – a character many boxing fans would love to see brought down to earth. Either way, Callum’s staying focussed.
“I don’t need any more motivation to train other than I’m fighting Jurgen Braehmer and fighting for a world title. That was the aim in entering the tournament and I believe I can become the best super-middleweight in the world. Winning this tournament will get me there or get me close to there,” Callum said.
“Groves and Eubank are on the other side of the tournament to me. I said at that start that I’d be silly talking about them when I had Erik Skoglund and now Jurgen Braehmer to come through. The same applies now. I’ve still got to do my job and I’d be very foolish to look past him. [Braehmer]. He’s a good fighter and he knows how to win. He’s got a good record both as a professional and as an amateur. He’s been there and done it. He’s a two-time world champion at light-heavyweight and he showed last time [against Rob Brant] that he’s still got a bit of life left in him. I expect a big performance from him but if I’m as good as I think I am, then I should be good enough to beat a 39-year-old Jurgen Braehmer. I think technically, I’m a better skilled fighter and I think I’d have beaten him ten years ago, so I should be able to beat him now definitely.”
Along with the age difference – Callum’s 12 years younger than Braehmer – the German is fighting down at super-middleweight after nine years campaigning at light-heavyweight. Making weight may be a detrimental factor for Braehmer against Smith, who’s naturally huge at the 12-stone limit.
“I can’t bank on him being weight-drained,” said Callum. “I think against Brant he showed he wasn’t weight drained and he did the 12 rounds. He took some big shots early on and if he was weight-drained he wouldn’t have been able to take them. I’ve got to expect the same.
“He’s done the weight and the first time is the hardest. The weight, I don’t think will be too much of an issue. With size, I don’t think he’ll have the size advantage he had against Brant. I’m the much fresher, younger man and I’ve got to do my job and make him feel the smaller man and make him feel every year of his 39 years. I know when I’m 39 I’d like to be retired with my slippers on and not getting punched by a 27-year-old. I need to show him he’s had his time and now it’s my time.”
In getting to this stage of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series – a knockout competition where fighters are competing for cash and the Muhammad Ali Trophy – Callum outpointed the tough Swede Erik Skoglund. The 26-year-old subsequently fell with a bleed on the brain following a training session in December. Smith has been keeping his fellow fighter in his thoughts since hearing the news.
“It’s a sport at the end of the day,” Callum said. “Even before the fight there was no bad-mouthing. He’s a gentleman, he’s a good man and we had a good fight. It’s sad to see with anyone. It just shows you how much of a serious sport boxing is. It’s called a sport but it’s not like football, you don’t play it. There are consequences and every now and then you do get stuff happening like the Erik Skoglund case.
“But it’s good to see him making a recovery and fingers crossed he can carry on recovering and be 100 percent. I’m still in the tournament and still going into fights and there’s always the slight chance it can happen, and you’ve always got to have it in the back of your mind. But we choose to do it [box] and you never think it’s going to happen to you. My thoughts are still with Erik and hopefully he can make a full recovery.”