ABOUT CALLUM SMITH
Callum, 27, is a British professional boxer who has held both the British and European super middleweight titles. He is the current WBC Diamond champion and is ranked #3 by the Ring Magazine at super middleweight.
Hailing from Britain’s most talented boxing family, Callum is the youngest of four boxing brothers who have each won British titles.
Callum has built a reputation both inside and outside the ring as a respectful and consummate professional. Callum’s career journey has not all been smooth sailing, but he is not one to complain or to engage in trash talk. He prefers to let his ‘boxing do the talking’and boasting an enviable record: 17 knock outs from 24 fights, including 10 inside the first round.
This section gives fans an opportunity to better understand the man behind the gloves and what makes him a great champion, role model for the next generation and ambassador for the sport.
Callum grew up on an estate opposite the Rotunda ABC gym, less than a mile away from Anfield. The household was full with his parents, three brothers (Paul 1982, Stephen 1985, Liam 1988) and two sisters (Chloe 1994, Hollie 2000).
Callum’s early childhood was similar to many others – he spent much of his time playing football down the park with friends and watching TV shows. His favourite show was The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which led to his nickname ‘Callumundo’, a nickname which still remains today in the shortened form, ‘Mundo’.
“I grew up around boxing, going to events all over the country because of my brothers. I would mess about rather than watch the boxing, but when I started boxing when I was 9 I quickly took it seriously.”
“I remember seeing Paul at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and thinking that I wanted to do that because it was such a big event. By that time I had just started boxing and yet my oldest brother was winning a silver medal at that level. Stephen was only a few years behind him and he really set the bar – he rarely lost as an amateur – he by far had the best amateur record out of all of us. Seeing him travelling all over the world with the GB team made me want to follow in his footsteps.”
“However I was closest to Liam due to us being similar in age. At school I was always known as ‘Liam’s younger brother’, which was a great tag to have given he was the hardest kid in school. He got into quite a lot of trouble, which sort of meant I didn’t have to!”
AMATEUR BOXING CAREER
Callum had an illustrious amateur career, winning three nations titles, ABA titles and defeating the 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist. Despite so much success, Callum did not achieve his ultimate goal from the amateur sport.
Callum’s ambition was to become the first Smith brother to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games. For Callum, his best opportunity to achieve this coincided with a Home Games (in 2012 in London).
Callum's bid to become Team GB's light heavyweight (81 kg) representative ended in disappointment at the final qualification tournament in Trabzon, Turkey. After losing 16 - 14 in to Azerbaijan's Vatan Huseynli, a decision which many considered unfair, Callum relied on Vatan to win the tournament. Huseynli, however, lost in the final and so Callum did not progress.
Shortly after the Trabzan tournament it was decided by the AIBA (the amateur boxing governing body) that an invitational place at the Olympics would be available to a boxer of its choice.
Callum was shortlisted for the place, but it was awarded to Boško Drašković of Montenegro, a man Callum convincingly out pointed earlier in the tournament.
"It was never my plan to stay as an amatuer boxer after 2012, so London as my one shot at furfilling the olympic dream."
“The hardest part for me was watching the Opening Ceremony – that was heartbreaking. The atmosphere of a Home Games! However I couldn’t help but watch my team mates and cheer them on.”
EARLY PROFESSIONAL BOXING CAREER
Following the disappointment of not being part of the 2012 Olympics, Callum turned professional and teamed up with trainer and manager Joe Gallagher and promoter Matchroom Boxing.
“Joining Joe Gallagher’s gym was a no-brainer for me. My brothers spoke so highly of him and I could see how well he was doing for their careers. His gym was buzzing with so many top like-minded boxers, so I just wanted to surround myself with that.”
“Teaming up with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom was where I took a different path. I sat down with both Frank and Eddie and had offers from both of them. I felt though that I would be out more regularly with Eddie and Sky offered a great platform.
Callum's professional boxing debut took place on 17 November 2012 in Nottingham, England, against Dan Blackwell.
Under Joe’s tutelage, Callum rushed to 9-0-0 (7 KO) within a year, picking up the English and WBC International super-middleweight titles. During that period, Callum became the first British boxer to win 6 consecutive fights by first round stoppage.
"It was a frustrating first fight as things didn’t quite go how I wanted them. But my ninth fight there was a lot of hype about me being a big puncher due to my first round knockout rate. At that time I really didn’t think I was a strong puncher, I saw myself more as a technical boxer than a power puncher.”
BRITISH AND EUROPEAN TITLE WIN
Callum racked up an impressive 17-0-0 (12 KO) record and added the WBC Silver title to his collection. By November 2015 it was time to step up and face fellow Scouse hot-prospect, Rocky Fielding (21-0-0 12 KO), for the British title. Callum rose to the challenge, knocking Rocky down three times during the first round before the referee stopped the fight.
“I was marginal favourite with the bookies, but we knew Rocky would be a tough test. I think the pundits expected a tough fight but for me to win.”
“I saw in his eyes early in the first round that I hurt him, so I looked to finish the job early. By then I had 8 first round stoppages, so I knew what it was like to see somebody who was stunned by my power. Rocky had that same look, like he no longer wanted to be in the ring with me.”
“That was probably my best experience in boxing – in front of a sold out home arena [Echo Arena, Liverpool]. It also meant that us brothers made history by each winning British titles.”
In April 2015, Callum fought Hadillah Mohoumadi for the European and WBC Silver titles. The fight was also a WBC final eliminator. Callum knocked out Mohoumadi in the first round, which meant that he picked up the English, British and European titles by way of first round stoppages.
“For me that was my best knock out as it was one people weren’t expecting. Mohoumadi had been the distance with the likes of James Degale, so it was great to finish the job in spectacular fashion. Plus, it added the European title to my collection which is a title that none of my brothers had won!”
WBC MANDATORY CHALLENGER
Callum was the WBC mandatory challenger from April 2015, but he had to show his patience and perseverance between then and June 2017.
Callum was due to fight the WBC champion, Badou Jack, in September 2016, but the WBC granted Jack a special exemption to fight the IBF world champion, Britain’s James Degale, in a unification contest to take place in January 2017. That contest ended in a draw.
Shortly after the Degale fight, Jack vacated the WBC title which led to the WBC ordering negotiations between Callum Smith (ranked #1) and former WBC champion Anthony Dirrell (ranked #2). Dirrell’s team won purse bids at US$1.6m. The fight was initially scheduled to take place on May 27th in Flint Michigan, but contractual and WBC rule issues caused uncertainty.
“Plenty was going on behind the scenes – it is the side of boxing most don’t see. There was a push for me to fight in a domestic pay-per-view fight with IBF champion, James Degale. But despite the offer of more money it was difficult to get me off the WBC path – I wanted that green and gold belt which would then set up some massive domestic unification opportunities.”
“It reached a point where I agreed to the Degale fight, but then I heard nothing further. By the time a draft contract came through, it was late May which left limited training time to properly prepare for Degale on July 1st.”
“The World Boxing Super Series complicated things further by trying to persuade me and Dirrell to be the opening fight of the tournament for the vacant WBC title. But despite offering us a lot more money than the purse bid, Dirrell’s team was not willing to enter.”
Faced with the choice of Degale a month away, Dirrell for September 9th in LA, and the tournament (without the WBC title), Callum took the Dirrell fight. But then when Dirrell’s team went to change the date and venue again, Callum withdrew and entered the World Boxing Super Series.
“I sat down with my brothers and a sheet of paper which had the pros and cons of the Dirrell fight and of entering the World Boxing Super Series. Stephen put it comically: “I can’t believe you’ve called us here when it’s so obvious what you should do”. When he said that it was obvious! It helped that the WBC agreed that if I enter the tournament then the WBC Diamond title would follow me through the tournament. The next thing I knew I was packing my bags for the Gala in Monaco which was only a few days later.”
WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES
The World Boxing Super Series is a professional boxing tournament, organised by Comosa AG and headed by Sauerland Promotions.
The Series ‘fights off’ eight of the best boxers at a particular weight division over 10 months on a knock out basis until there is a winner. Titles are on the line in each fight in the usual way, but the winner also receives the Muhammad Ali Trophy. The boxers share a prize fund of around US$25m per weight division.
These sorts of tournament are very rare in boxing, but they provide fans with certainty of quality fights as well as plenty of storylines along the way.
Callum was one of eight super middleweight boxers to enter the inaugural series.
The other boxers to sign up: George Groves (WBA super champion), Chris Eubank Jr (IBO champion), Jurgen Brahmer (former WBO and WBA light heavyweight champion) and undefeated contenders Jamie Cox, Erik Skoglund, Avni Yildirim and Robert Brant. They agreed to lose control of who they fight, when they fight, and where they fight, something which boxers and teams are usually reluctant to do.
A bonus for Callum was the opportunity to win the WBC Diamond title, which the WBC agreed would follow Callum (as it's #1 ranked boxer) through the tournament. The belt is an honorary championship exclusively awarded to the winner of historic fights and events. WBC Diamond title holders have included Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins, Sergio Martinez, Saul Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Mikey Garcia.
The Series opened in July 2017 with a gala in Monaco, where Callum chose to fight Erik Skoglund in the quarter final.
“Having had the Dirrell/Degale/tournament dilemma, it’s been nice having no decisions to make! Well that’s not completely true – I had the second pick at the Gala in Monaco. That was a surreal experience – talk about the red carpet treatment! It was great being made such a fuss of, but it was actually quite nerve racking because it was such a different experience.”
Smith vs Skoglund took place in Liverpool on September 16th. Callum overcame a difficult period in the middle of the fight to drop Skoglund in the 11th. Callum won the fight by unanimous decision and progressed in to the semi-finals. The respect between the fighters was evident at all times before, during and after the fight.
Following their wins against previously undefeated Erik Skoglund and Robert Brant, Callum and Jurgen Braehmer were due to meet in the semi-final in Nuremberg, Germany, on 24th February 2018.
Braehmer withdrew from the contest during fight week. "The show must go on", and so reserve boxer Nieky Holzkin stepped in. Callum defeated Holzkin by unanimous decision.
The stage was set for Callum to meet George Groves (WBA super champion) in the final. Rumours however spread that Groves was not fit and had withdrawn from the tournament following an injury he sustained to his shoulder in the semi final. For a period it looked like Callum's bad luck would continue and that he would again miss out on his opportunity to fight for a world title.
Then came the announcement – George Groves would defend his world title against Callum Smith, on September 28 in Jeddah. Whilst the location wasn’t ideal due to UK fans being affected, the key for Callum was that George Groves was in the opposite corner.
Popular opinion is that, up to the end of Round 6, Callum controlled the fight. The judges however had the contest very tight. Then in the 7th Callum landed a big left hook which rocked Groves – from there, Callum pounced and dropped Groves with a body shock.
As the referees count reached 10, Callum dropped to his knees. He knew in that moment that he had done it – he was not only a world champion, but also the number 1 super middleweight in the world. The ‘World Boxing Super Series’ chapter had closed in spectacular fashion - without doubt, entering was the best decision he has ever made.