Highly touted prospect Callum Smith has been developing at a phenomenal rate in his bid to enter the elite Super Middleweight mix. Smith, trained by revered trainer Joe Gallagher, looks to possess world-class smarts and power that could shake up the scene over the next eighteen months, clocking up back-to-back 1st round KOs, with Rocky Fielding falling last November, and Hadillah Mohoumadi in April. Greater challenges lie ahead for Smith (19-0, 14 KO), and so we begin…
Callum Smith: Top 5 Opponents
1. James DeGale (23-1, 14 KO)
The 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist is a threat to any Super Middleweight because of his unpredictability and natural-born talent. DeGale settles into fights quickly, and his slippery, awkward style and angles make him a frustrating opponent to hang with. It’s well documented that DeGale is known for languishing/tiring during his fights (usually in the championship rounds), but his skill set has been enough to trump all known challengers to date (bar George Groves way back in 2011 by a razor-thin decision). DeGale came close to knocking out Andre Dirrell in their IBF championship meeting last May, and went on to trump Lucian Bute six months later, recently followed by Rogelio Medina in April.
2. Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KO)
WBC champ Badou Jack is perhaps interchangeable with George Groves (below) on this list; Groves may be the more threatening boxer-puncher overall, but Jack’s ability to hold shape and consistency makes him the tougher nut for Callum Smith to crack. Calling Jack a serious threat seems both wrong and right. Jack doesn’t stand out in any particular area, and seemed to struggle against tenacious veteran Lucian Bute recently, but his experience at top-level, which includes a hard-fought victory over Anthony Dirrell last April, and a more impressive decision over George Groves five months later, are proof he belongs at this level. Jack is now supposedly due to face IBF champ James DeGale (above) later in 2016.
3. George Groves (23-3, 18 KO)
There is a lot to like about fan-favorite George Groves. He can box, punch, and loves to lure his opponent’s into fight-changing counter traps. Groves made a name for himself by edging James DeGale in 2011, and giving Carl Froch all he could handle in 2013 and a 2014 Wembley stadium sellout sequel. While Groves belongs at world level and has performed well against the division’s top players, he is yet to be victorious, however. Groves was stopped by Froch twice, first via controversial TKO, then a legitimate one courtesy of a Froch rocket right hand, and was then knocked down by Badou Jack en route to losing a hard-fought Split Decision. If Groves can get by fellow nearly-man Martin Murray on June 25th, he would make a spectacular opponent for the rising Callum Smith.
4. Gilberto Ramirez (34-0, 24 KO)
There are still questions remaining about Gilberto Ramirez who beat Arthur Abraham in April to lift the WBO title. Ramirez won a shutout decision on the scorecards, but you know, Abraham isn’t quite the force he once was in his younger days. Anyway, Ramirez is still a top 168-pounder; he can bang with the best of them thanks to his long, thudding levers, and while not the most refined fighter in the division, has enough smarts to command respect from Callum Smith. One thing Ramirez lacks is speed, however, which could prove detrimental against an opportunistic counter-puncher like Smith. Ramirez is currently set to defend his WBO strap against Dominik Britsch on July 23rd.
5. Anthony Dirrell (29-1-1, 23 KO)
Anthony Dirrell has deft generalship in the ring, plus a little more pop in his punch than Super Middleweight-campaigning kin, Andre. Despite Anthony’s obvious talents, the former WBC champ is no longer considered a 168-pound front-runner since being upset by Badou Jack last April. And yeah, his two ugly affairs with scrappy veteran Sakio Bika in 2013 and 2014 didn’t exactly help Dirrell’s cause, either. Dirrell has rebounded with two solid wins since the Jack defeat, outclassing seasoned Marco Antonio Rubio, and obliterating Caleb Truax in under two minutes. Dirrell isn’t over the hill at 31, and his repertoire, when coupled with big stage experience, could make him a tough test for Callum Smith.
Chime in with your verdicts in the comments below, readers. Agree with BB’s Top 5 dangerous fighters for Callum Smith? Who in the Super Middleweight Top 10 should he target first? And who, ultimately, poses the biggest threat?