The World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament will open on Sept. 16 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, with No. 2 seed Callum Smith in a 12-round hometown bout against unseeded Erik Skoglund, organizer Comosa AG announced on Wednesday.
While the matchups are set for both the super middleweight and the cruiserweight eight-man single-elimination tournaments, Smith-Skoglund is the first bout to get a date and location.
At the tournament draft on July 8 in Monte Carlo, the top four seeds in each tournament selected their opponents from the unseeded fighters, and Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) picked Sweden’s Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs).
Smith gave up his position as a mandatory world title challenger in order to enter the World Boxing Super Series in which the 16 fighters in the two tournaments will divvy up $50 million in prize money.
Smith, 27, was very pleased to secure the hometown advantage for his opening fight.
“A ring is a ring no matter where it is but, of course, I’m happy to be fighting in Liverpool,” Smith said. “‘This is my home and this is where all my best performances as a professional have been. I like fighting in Liverpool, and with the crowd behind me, I will have an added advantage on Sept. 16th.
“There are no easy fights in this tournament. It’s the best fighting the best, but I believe I made the right decision in Monte Carlo. That’s not to say Skoglund is not a good fighter. I think he is a very good fighter. His record speaks for itself, but I think stylistically, he was the right choice for me. It will be a tough test. On paper, Skoglund is probably the best fighter I’ve ever faced, and I will need to be at my best to beat him. But every time I’ve been up against it in my career and every time there’s been that fear factor, it’s brought out the best in me and I’m hoping for the same on Sept. 16th.”
Skoglund, 26, will be fighting in his fifth country, having previously boxed in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany. He said he has no problem going to Smith’s hometown and is excited for the opportunity the tournament will provide him.
“This is a huge opportunity for me to prove myself at the highest level,” Skoglund said. “Callum Smith is a top-level fighter and one of the tournament favorites. This is what the World Boxing Super Series is all about — the best fighting the best. That’s why I entered and that’s why I’m really looking forward to this fight.
“For me, it’s no problem fighting in Liverpool. Of course, I am always thankful for the opportunity to fight in front of my fans in Sweden, but I’m happy not having that pressure on my shoulders for this fight and I will enjoy being the underdog for once.”
After quarterfinal matches this fall, the semifinals are slated for early 2018 and the finals in May 2018.
The three other super middleweight quarterfinal matches that still need to be scheduled are world titleholder and No. 1 seed George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs) taking on British countryman Jamie Cox (23-0, 13 KOs); No. 3 Chris Eubank Jr. (24-1, 19 KOs), of England, facing Turkey’s Avni Yildirim (16-0, 10 KOs); and No. 4 Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs), a former light heavyweight world titleholder from Germany, taking on St. Paul, Minnesota’s Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs). That bout could take place on Sept. 23 in the United States.
The cruiserweight quarterfinals will pit No. 1 Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), of Ukraine, in a world title defense against former titleholder Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs), of Germany; No. 2 Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs), of Russia, defending his title against Polish mandatory challenger Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs); No. 3 Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs), of Latvia, defending his belt against Ireland-based Cuban defector Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs); and No. 4 Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), a Miami-based Cuban defector, defending his title against “The Russian Hammer” Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs). An American television deal for both tournaments has not yet been worked out.