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Callum Smith baffled by WBC, as Benavidez-Gavril fight for title

Callum Smith criticised the WBC for sanctioning a fight between David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril for its vacant super-middleweight title.

Smith was being lined up to contest the vacant WBC belt with Anthony Dirrell in Los Angeles next month, but the English boxer then changed course and agreed to enter the eight-man World Boxing Super Series tournament.

Callum Smith is entering the World Boxing Super Series, with the champion the mandatory challenger for the winner of David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril. Leigh Dawney/Getty Images
Smith (22-0, 17 KOs), 27, faces Sweden's Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs) at the Echo Arena in his home city of Liverpool on Sept 16 with the WBC's Diamond belt -- a secondary belt to its world title -- at stake.

Despite sitting No. 1 in the WBC rankings, Smith was overlooked by the world governing body, who chose to sanction a fight between Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs), of Phoenix, and Gavril (18-1, 14 KOs) on Sept. 8 after the WBC announced earlier this month that Dirrell (30-1-1, 24 KOs), of Michigan, pulled out of fighting Benavidez because of injury.

The WBC says the winner of the tournament will become mandatory challenger for the winner of Benavidez-Gavril.

"I don't know if Dirrell has pulled out of fighting for the WBC title altogether but I was No. 1 in the rankings and Skoglund is worthy enough [he's ranked at No. 12 by the WBC]," Smith told ESPN.

"I've chosen to go for the tournament so I have to make do with what I've got but I can't explain why they've chose for two fighters below me in the rankings to fight for the vacant title.

"I've been asking why I'm not fighting for the WBC title next as I'm No. 1 in the rankings. Instead the No. 6 is fighting for it. But I can get that title further down the line, and in my career at the moment I'm focused on winning my next two fights only."

Should Smith beat Skoglund, he will meet the winner of Chris Eubank Jr. (25-1, 19 KOs) and Turkey's Avni Yildirim (16-0, 10 KOs), who fight in Stuttgart, Germany, on Oct. 7. George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs) defends his WBA world title against English rival Jamie Cox (24-0,13 KOs) in London on Oct. 14 and German former world light-heavyweight title-holder Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs) faces American Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs) in the other two quarterfinals.

Smith, who last fought in December, will end the tournament WBA champion if he wins his next three fights, but the Liverpool boxer believes the series winner must then beat James DeGale to be considered world super-middleweight No. 1.

"Terence Crawford became the first person in a long time to unify all the world titles in his division [super lightweight] and it doesn't happen enough," Smith said. "I want to unify the belts at super-middleweight and this competition is a good way for me to start.

"James DeGale is out at the moment, but he's the man to beat in the division still, and I would love that fight in the future too, provided he can keep the title. It's a great fight for the tournament winner, with two world titles on the line, and it would be a huge fight if I can win the tournament and then fight James in England."

The World Boxing Super Series will feature two tournaments at super-middleweight and cruiserweight from September with four quarterfinals (fall 2017), two semifinals (early 2018) and one final (May 2018).

The cruiserweight competition features all four world champions: Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) and Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs).

Author: Nick Parkinson, ESPN
Source: http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/20504541/boxing-callum-smith-criticised-wbc-sanctioning-david-benavidez-ronald-gavril-fight-super-middleweight-title

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