Mundo’s Time To Shine | At Home With Callum Smith

James Kenealey

by James Kenealey on

Callum Smith is sat in his smart semi-detached on a new estate in Bootle. The house has just been decorated but that’s not deterring Freddie – his charcoal grey French Pug puppy – who’s tearing around the place trying to chew on anything his little fangs will attach to.

It’s Callum’s day off – a rarity despite the fact he still doesn’t have a confirmed date for his eagerly anticipated world title clash with George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series (Groves v Smith). The fight is expected to take place in July following surgery on Groves’s right shoulder.

The youngest of the fighting Smith brothers reclines on his sofa, decked out in his navy Hugo Boss tracksuit and fluffy slippers. He’s comfortably relaxed – so laid back it’s hard to imagine he’d be ruffled by any knockback the sport of boxing could hand him.

“I’ve not heard anything official off the World Boxing Super Series,” Callum said. “Until I hear it off them, I can’t afford to take my foot off the gas. I can’t think it’s going to be in the middle of July and then they spring it on me that it’s in June with me running a little bit behind.  There won’t be any chance of that. I’m always in the gym ticking over.”

It’s been a month since Callum had his arm raised in Nuremberg following a unanimous victory over relative novice Nicky Holzken – a very late replacement for the seasoned Juergen Braehmer. It was a thankless task given the circumstances.

“I went over there to make a statement, but the minute the opponent got changed, any chance of making a statement was gone,” Callum explained. “If I’d knocked Holzken out in one round, I’d have been criticised for [fighting] a bad opponent. I went to points with him and got criticised for going the distance with a bad opponent. The objective had changed. It was just a case of booking my place in the final.

“Watching the fight back since, I thought I boxed well to be honest! If anything, it was just a bit too comfortable. If it was a sparring session, I’d have thought I sparred well, but it wasn’t, it was a fight and there were a few times I think I could’ve upped it a little bit more. But what I was doing was working and I had it all my own way. Job done.”

So on to the final. The venue as well as the date is still to be decided, but whether it’s held in London or Manchester, it will be Groves v Smith and Callum will be the underdog.

The shoulder injury suffered by Groves in the Eubank semi-final is expected to delay the fight by at least a month with the original date of June 2 considered highly unlikely. A new date ensures the WBA champion’s involvement in the final following initial talk of a substitute being drafted in.

“I said straight after the [Eubank jnr] fight that I’d rather wait a little bit longer to fight him [Groves] than him be replaced,” said Callum. “I’ve been a professional for 24 fights now and I’ve been a massive favourite in every one of them, most of them deservedly so, but some of them not so much. The bookies have always had me a massive favourite – i.e. the Skoglund fight and he was a 26 and 0 light heavyweight, ranked in the top ten with all four governing bodies.  I was never going to get any credit beating him. The Fielding fight, the Rabrasse fight – all the same. I wasn’t given any credit. At the time, they were all good wins.

“The Groves fight is the opposite. It’ll be the first time in my career that when I do win, people will sit back and say, ‘that was a good win’. It takes all the pressure off me, not that I feel much pressure anyway. It’ll be nice to have a lot of people picking me to lose! Trying to prove people wrong will be good.

“George Groves is a massive fight for me and one that I’ll have to perform in to get the win. When you’ve got that pressure where you feel you need to perform, I feel it always brings out the best in me.

“I believe he’s in good form at the minute. A new coach [Shane McGuigan], he’s won a world title, his tail’s up, he’s buzzing, he’s in a good place. The Eubank fight impressed me. He boxed well and stuck to his tactics – Eubank didn’t. It was probably the best win of his career – recently anyway.

“I prefer it that way. I wouldn’t want to beat George Groves and people say, ‘he was finished, he was over-the-hill. He’s world champion and as of now, he’s the best in the division. It’s a massive challenge but one I’m confident of coming through. I believe I can beat him and beat him well.”

It won’t be the first time ‘Groves v Smith’ is up in lights. Callum’s older brother Paul was stopped by Groves when the pair fought in November 2011. Regardless, family revenge isn’t a motivating factor for the younger Smith.

“Whether he’d boxed Paul or not, it’s still a must-win fight for me. More importantly, it’s a world title fight,” said Callum. “I turned pro to become a world champion and I want to take that belt off him. Everything that comes with it is a bonus, but the bottom line is becoming a world champion.”

The plan is simple. Beat Groves and look to unify the belts as quickly as possible.

“You can be a world champion and not be the best in the world. Groves is ranked number one by the Ring Magazine, so I think beating him makes me the best in the world. I’d then like to prove I’m the best by beating the other champions.

“If you asked 100 people who the best middleweight in the world is, 100 people would say Golovkin. There aren’t many divisions where you have that. In a year’s time, if asked who the best super-middleweight in the world is, I’d like 100 people to say ‘Callum Smith’. No questions. That’s the ultimate goal,” Callum added.

A curious caveat to ‘Mundo’s’ rise as a global force in the 12stone division, is just how does somebody who stands six foot three make the weight?

“I’m very big at the weight, but I’ve always done the weight quite comfortably. My brothers all dislike me because I do the weight far easier that all of them! It’s getting a little bit tougher each fight as I’m maturing. I’m 27 and I’m bigger now than when I turned pro at 22.

“I’d like to become a two-weight champion and see if I can do it at light-heavy, but first and foremost, as I do the weight ok, the aim is to be a world champion at super-middleweight.

“There are easier ways to make a living. If I can achieve what I want to and leave, I know my mum will be a lot happier! But I’m enjoying boxing and as long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll continue to do it.

“My mum’s always said that the minute the last one [Smith brother] retires, it’ll be the happiest day of her life. I think it’ll get worse for her before it gets better. The level we’re all at now, they’re all tough fights. The next few years could be tough for her. “

Mrs Smith will have to endure a couple of very big nights in the very near future. Before Callum takes on Groves (Groves v Smith) in his world title night of destiny, sibling Liam has a crack at winning back the WBO super-welterweight title he lost to Saul Alvarez, when he faces Sadam Ali in upstate New York in May.

“Ali is a good fighter but it’s definitely a winnable fight for him [Liam],” Callum reasoned.  “If I can win this tournament {World Boxing Super Series] we could have two brothers world champions at the same time, which is something beyond anything we ever dreamed of when we were younger. We’re so close to making it a reality now. It was the same with the British titles; until we did it, it wasn’t something we ever thought about. When you’re a kid, world titles seem so far away and now we’re both in touching distance and it’d be a massive achievement for the family and for the both of us.”

What is clear is that whatever happens in the future, Callum won’t suffer withdrawal symptoms from boxing when the time comes to hang up the gloves. Some fighters are simply unable to leave behind the lure of the ring – the attention, the bright lights, the glory. Not Callum. The Morson Ambassador is already thinking ahead to a life without boxing.

“What I do all depends on how successful I am financially. I’d like to set up a business or buy property. When I do finish boxing, I’d like to work for myself. You see a lot of boxers – talented boxers – having to go and work on taxis or become personal trainers and stuff.  I’d like to be in a position where I can do what I want.  I’m doing quite well at the minute and I’m lucky and hopefully I’ll be able to retire on my terms. I won’t be hanging around, fighting into my late thirties, chasing something that isn’t there.

“The minute I leave the gym, I come home and I switch off. I sit with my girlfriend (Kim) who doesn’t like or understand boxing. That gives me chance to switch off.

“I don’t think I’ll struggle away from boxing! The minute you turn professional, it becomes a job and it’s hard. It’s a brutal sport. I’m not one who lives for boxing, who’s obsessed with it. It’s not the only thing that can keep me happy and occupied.”

As he waits for a confirmed date for Groves v Smith, his big night in the final of the World Boxing Super Series, Callum’s decided to put his time to good use. He’s off for a week in the Maldives with Kim – proof that there is more to life than boxing!

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