Groves vs Smith: 'Mundo' in a relaxed mood and boxing royalty in town

talkSPORT's boxing reporter Dom McGuinness is in Jeddah to cover George Groves vs Callum Smith.

He's been keeping us up to date with the goings on in Saudi Arabia ( day one diary entry here)...


Boxers can be tetchy during fight week. It's usually the issue of making weight that affects them most, the struggle to take off the final few pounds leaving them craving sustenance, which in turn can leave them socially unfit for purpose. Added to the hunger and dehydration, there's the pressure of knowing that battle is just around the corner - the fear and mental angst that that can bring.

Then there are some who don't seem bothered about anything. It would appear Callum Smith falls into that bracket. On exploring the hotel and its facilities, I found myself on the 17th floor where the rooftop pool lives. There, all six-foot-three frame stretched across a sun lounger, lay the solitary figure of 'Mundo' - as relaxed in the vicious, scorching midday sun as a man could be. Wearing just black shorts, black socks and adidas flip-flops (a heady brew), he cast the appearance of a man whose greatest worry would be having to leave that lounger anytime soon.

It also happened to be the day of the final press conference, a chance for Groves and Smith to have another look at each other prior to the last formality of fight week - the weigh-in.

The fight hotel is just a few miles inland from our base on the coast, but the drive is a fraught experience with cars swerving from lane to lane - seemingly unable to reduce speed. Once at our destination, we walk through the lobby and up a flight of stairs to the ballroom. The ceiling is adorned with swirling chandeliers and a stage has been set up at either end of the room - one stage for the press conference, the other for post-presser TV interviews. Seats for the press are laid out in front of the top table in front of the usual boards and banners publicising the event.

Team Smith arrives first with 20 minutes to spare until the 4.30pm start. Team Groves isn't far behind, but while both are greeted warmly by those assembled, they are usurped by special guest Evander 'The Real Deal' Holyfield. The only man to reign as undisputed champion in both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions is here to help promote fight night and his presence creates a stir.

Just shy of his 56th birthday, looking fit and dressed in a loose, dark brown short-sleeved shirt with matching slacks, he stops to speak to talkSPORT. He's non-committal on the outcome of the big fight - he admits he doesn't know much about either man. He does know about the UK heavyweight scene though and says it's just common sense that Anthony Joshua is number one in the division. That said, he believes Wilder could power his way to all the belts. Interview over, and once dozens of selfies are taken care of, he makes his way to his seat and the presser can begin.

Both trainers, Shane McGuigan for Groves and Joe Gallagher for Smith, are respectful in their assessments of the opposing fighter, while both are convinced their man will be victorious and give reasons to back up those claims.

It's the fighters' turn next. Groves, who holds the WBA 'super' super-middleweight belt, insists he has no concerns about the shoulder injury that delayed the fight and he'll be too smart on the night. His rival Smith feels he's the fresher, hungrier man. Both feel they have the superior skills that will result in having their hand raised. Neither believe the fight will go the distance.

The head-to-head follows - no silly antics - before the boxers break off for interviews with the assembled TV crews and written press who've gathered from near and far. Interest throughout the Arab world is huge - a fact reflected in the turn out. A few members of the UK press have also made it out here.

Both fighters speak with talkSPORT, breaking down the fight. Groves is keen to stress again that the shoulder will not be a problem. He's been sparring cruiserweights who've been wrestling and grappling in clinches - testing the shoulder as much as possible. The message is, if anything was to go wrong, it won't be the shoulder. That said, 'St George' is extremely confident - as a number one seed and holder of a world title should be.

For Callum, this is HIS time he believes. It's his first world title fight (compared with the eight Groves has had) and despite the experience of his opponent, is convinced it's the opportunity he's craved and he won't be denied. There's family pride at stake too - Groves stopped Callum's brother Paul in two rounds back in November 2011.

Once all press requirements have been dealt with, both teams head back to their respective bases. That leaves all written and broadcast journalists turning their attention to Holyfield. A huddle forms around him - he'll be here a while.


Jeddah is a sprawling city of four million people positioned on the west coast - the Red Sea side of the country. Along with members of Matchroom (Callum's promoters) and Team Smith, I'm staying in the Corniche district, an area developing rapidly with new-build hotels and apartment blocks sitting amongst sites under construction. There's a lagoon with a beach area protected from the sea beyond, along with a few cafés and ice cream parlours.

If you like an outdoor temperature of 37 degrees Celsius and a truly different cultural experience, then this could be the place for you. If you enjoy a lively night out - booze or not (Saudi is definitely dry), then maybe not. It's not set up that way and Islamic traditions make drastic change unlikely. But if you're here for a few days covering sport, or taking part, the lack of western distractions can be a major plus.

Smith arrived in Jeddah last Thursday - a full week's acclimatisation. Groves left it until early fight week to make it here. Either way, both have settled in well, both have spoken of how well received they've been despite both having fears of the unknown before they travelled.

Speaking of their experiences of the Kingdom, George - with a smile on his face - said it was just a case of being in a desert, like Vegas but with better food! Callum was full of praise for the training facilities and made the point that once his father and brothers had arrived (Tuesday), then it didn't really matter where he was, he was at home.

Both camps have focused solely on the fight. As ever with fight week, the formalities must be taken care of. The press conference done, now just the weigh-in, no margin for error. Held at the Radisson Blu hotel - same venue as the presser - all eyes on the scales.

Among the undercard fighters, Brits Darren Surtees and Kane Baker both looked good on the scales. Chief support - Chris Eubank Jnr v JJ McDonagh - and again both on weight (12stone), both looking confident, neither bothering to speak to the other during the lengthy head-to-head for the cameras.

Chris, without his father who hadn't travelled, had time for talkSPORT following the weigh-in. He's been training in Las Vegas before heading home, catching the Anthony Joshua fight at Wembley, and then heading to Saudi. Now in a new phase of his career following defeat to Groves in the WBSS semi-final, he wants to make a statement against McDonagh - a man he's sparred before. Interestingly, he said he has a major fight pencilled in before Christmas. He wouldn't commit to that being at either super middle or middleweight, although he reiterated the fact he's a natural middleweight.

On to the main event. Smith, relaxed as ever, smiled on the scales when David Diamante announced his weight as 11st 13lbs 4oz. Wearing sunglasses, Groves, scaled 11st 13lbs 10oz. We have a fight.

No nonsense during the head-to-head, both men then had their say with an on-stage flash TV interview once off the scales. Groves spoke of being supremely confident, Smith questioned his rival's appearance - inferring he may have struggled to make weigh - and said he looked like an old man.

No need for serious trash-talk, the fight is too good on its own merits for that. As the fighters dressed, there was a commotion in the room as Prince Naseem Hamed entered stage right.

I managed to grab a quick interview before he was mobbed. On the fight being in Saudi Arabia - he reckons it's amazing and is delighted to help publicise a fight on Arab soil. Typically, pushed on who'd win, he reckoned it would be 'the best man' before shouting in an American drawl: "Let's get it on baby, let's get it on!"

There was a warm embrace with fellow boxing legend Barry McGuigan, while the locals battled to get a photo and a word. He can expect a lot more of that at the indoor arena at the King Abdullah Sports City on Friday night.

Our coverage of Groves vs Smith begins at 7pm on talkSPORT. Listen through the website here.