Smith knocks out Groves to reign as WBA super champion

George Groves (AFP)
George Groves (AFP)

Jeddah - Britain's Callum Smith knocked out his compatriot George Groves in Saudi Arabia on Friday, dethroning the more experienced fighter to claim the World Boxing Association super middleweight title and the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy. 

Smith, 28, knocked out the 30-year-old Groves - who has held the WBA super middleweight title for 16 months - in the seventh of 12 rounds, capping a winning streak in his 25th bout, with 18 knockouts overall. 

Groves has won 28 out of 32 fights this season, with 20 knockouts. 

Smith's height worked to his advantage at Friday night's bout in Jeddah: the Liverpudlian, who stands 191 cm tall to Groves' 182.1 cm, towered over the title defender as he delivered fast right-hand hooks, met with a quick left-handed punch by Groves. 

But Smith caught Groves with a left hook off the temple nearly two minutes into the seventh round, followed by a fast flurry as Groves stumbled into the ropes and hit the floor. 

Referee Luis Pabon made a full 10-count with Groves still on his knees. 

A victorious Smith fell to his knees on the canvas, visibly moved, as his three brothers rushed into the ring to congratulate him. 

"I waited so long. It just means everything," Smith said from the ring. 

"I'm not a man who shows a lot of emotion. You never see me ecstatic, but you can see tonight... it's a lifetime of work, all gone into one. 

"I'd like to wish (Groves) good luck in whatever he does." 

Smith was handed the Muhammad Ali Trophy by the boxing legend's daughter Rasheda Ali. He also now hold the RING Magazine title. 

Both Smith and Groves had expressed surprise with the choice of venue, telling reporters they would have preferred to fight closer to home to give their family and fans a chance to attend the fight. 

Friday night's bout, which opened at 22:00 is the first international boxing event to be hosted by Saudi Arabia, the ultraconservative kingdom that has launched a massive campaign to clean up its image. 

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the Saudi king, was appointed heir to the throne in June 2017 and has since spearheaded a campaign aimed at modernising his country, including ending a ban on women driving and allowing women to enter sports stadiums. 

The western city of Jeddah has long had a reputation as more tolerant than the Saudi capital and this year hosted a WWE event, headlined by US wrestling star John Cena.

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