Saudi Arabians witnessed another first in the history of the Kingdom when the inaugural World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) super-middleweight final opened in Jeddah on Friday. The energy-filled event, which saw middleweight newcomer Callum Smith emerge victorious after seven spectacular rounds against WBA world super-middleweight champion George Groves, was the first professional boxing match ever hosted by Saudi Arabia.
The inaugural match drew thousands to Al-Jawhara Stadium at King Abdullah Sports City, in the 10,000-capacity Indoor Sports Hall. According to an official press release, the 28-year-old Smith felled the 30-year-old Groves with a stunning left hook followed by a body shot that brought Groves’s 16-month rein as champion to an end.
Callum vs George
In a recent piece by The National, Smith talked about his time in Saudi Arabia, saying, “The Saudi people have been brilliant for me all this week, such as the people in the hotel – I can’t praise them enough […] They made the week here perfect […] it was just as good as any I’ve boxed in front of. I got a great reception, as did George. So, I just want to thank the people of Saudi for that.”
The event included victories for two Saudi Arabian boxers, and the super-middleweight title fight followed an undercard bout which featured Saudi fighter and local favorite Zuhayr Al-Qahtani, who improved his perfect five-fight record with a four-round decision victory over Mohamed Mahmoud.
Rasheda Ali, daughter of late world-renowned boxing champion Muhammad Ali, presented Smith with a trophy named after her father. The boxer, who was joined by his three brothers in the ring – two of which, Paul and Stephen, are each former British boxing champions – was also awarded $10 million in prize money. Other big names in attendance at the landmark event included Evander Holyfield, the only four-time heavyweight world champion in history, and “Prince” Naseem Hamed, the hugely popular former Yemeni-British boxing great.
“Professional boxing has never come to Saudi Arabia before and it’s a blessing that things have opened up in the country like this,” said Hamed. “We’ve been waiting for boxing to break into Arab countries for a long, long time. Hopefully this will just be the start of things to come.”