A little more than a week out from defending the World Boxing Association world super middleweight (168-pound) championship, Berlin, Germany’s Tyron Zeuge is the heavy favorite. Zeuge is ranked at #11 out of 1,355 super middleweights worldwide and at #2 out of 55 in his native country after putting together a nearly flawless 20-0-1 record with 11 victories by way of knockout. Zeuge is 5-0-1 in his last six fights.
So, Bovada has him as the –900 favorite as of June 9.
The challenger in England’s Paul Smith is ranked at #37 worldwide and #7 out of 78 English fighters. He has put together a trio of victories (a points win and two technical knockouts) to earn his title shot but that was immediately following a three-fight skid (two unanimous decision losses and a TKO) to his detriment before that. He is currently the +550 underdog after splitting his last three bout 3-3.
The WBA have once again given the champion home advantage (he’s fought his entire career in Germany,) so that may be a be a factor. Additionally, Smith is 1-4 in title shots per SportsChatPlace.com (0-2 against Arthur Abraham after consecutive losses based on points in bouts for the World Boxing Organization–WBO.)
Just looking at the victories both men have by knockout, those figures would make some consider Smith as the stronger puncher, and it is close, but Zeuge has a slight edge of 52 percent to 50 percent over the Brit in KOs.
While Smith understands the importance of another title shot, his history in going after the belt and fighting in foreign territory speaks for itself as mentioned above. It appears that the two have a contrast in fighting styles as well with Smith favoring power while Zeuge is more of a counter striker.
Smith also seems half in the fight already, recently telling the UK’s Sky Sports that his goal is to be champion and that has always been his goal since first putting on a pair of gloves, but at the same time he acknowledged the age difference between the two (25 to 34 in favor of the champion) and it appears that his training camp has been minimal as well. He also hasn’t fought in 11 months while Zeuge was active as recently as late March of this year.
The challenger told Sky Sports yesterday (June 8):
“I’ve done nothing really apart from strength and conditioning, weights, power movements, explosive drills, just maintenance, really. I’m no spring chicken, so I can’t do the things the younger lads can do, and I think that’s how the fight will probably pan out. I’m probably not going to be able to do what Zeuge does, but he won’t be able to do what I do either.”
The boxing world sees Smith as a journeyman at 34. He may not be rapidly approaching retirement, but the general consensus and stats do show that the man is middle of the pack at best. Smith is ranked at #5 out of the WBA’s top ten super middleweights. Below are the most up-to-date rankings for the division per the WBA (April of 2017.)
Zeuge has already fought (and defeated by a technical decision) #3 ranked Isaac Ekpo just months ago in only the 5th of a full 12-round bout, so going strictly by those rankings (being a purist) should automatically rule out #4 David Benavidez.
#2-ranked Some feel that #2 George Groves is another man who gets title shots he doesn’t deserve, but he is is the WBA super world super middleweight champion (a different strap than the one around the waist of Zeuge) after fighting for that then-vancant title in late May of this year and he took out Fedor Chudinov in Round 6. The rankings are somewhat confusing, but focusing on the leading two, it would appear that Zeugue and Groves need to go head-to-head.
Although, Groves won the Chudinov fight, he may still be nursing a broken jaw in the fight’s third round, so Chudinov may be the only true option.
The story here seems to be the organization having to justify the bout with Smith at #5, he seems down and out, and anything can happen (Smith’s brother Liam won a championship after three consecutive defeats.) In actuality, this feels like the WBA is helping the champion to keep his belt and pad his record.
Despite the KOs to his credit and the fact he’s champion, some feel that Zeuge is not a power puncher at all. While that can be debated, the feeling is that the fight would be competitive if Smith were motivated, but just re-read the quote above. The champion will, as a counter-striker, probably wait for Smith to make (and fail on making) the first move and then tag him. Eventually, that should all add up and allow Zeuge to keep his belt.
However, a major flaw of Smith’s is his cardio and he’s fallen apart midway through bouts, so don’t anticipate a stoppage, but don’t entirely rule out Smith being on his back and looking up at the arena lights at the end of the contest.
Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of support for Zeuge as champion and the world is still perplexed picking of Smith as even if he does win it, combat sports athletes typically fight just two to three times a year, so Smith might not be around for long if he happens to pull off the seemingly impossible upset.
At best, this time period in the super middleweight division could be described as a period of transition. Despite Zeuge defending his championship multiple times, the boxing community seems ready to move on to the next man up.
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