Callum Smith has good memories of Jeddah. It was at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena that he became a world champion in 2018 and he returns to the same venue on Saturday night in the home of moving a step close to becoming a world champion again.
Smith beat George Groves four years ago to win the WBA super-middleweight title and become a season one winner of the World Boxing Super Series. An all-British fight in Saudi Arabia seemed very odd at the time but was a sign of things to come.
On Saturday, on the undercard of the Usyk-Joshua rematch, Smith, 32, faces France’s Mathieu Bauderlique, a bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics, in a final eliminator for the WBC light-heavyweight title held by Artur Beterbiev
“I’ve got great memories of Jeddah because I was crowned world champion here, the best moment of my career so far,” Smith said. “It’s good to be back here.
“I used the same gym the other day as I did for my fight with Groves, yeah, good memories to take into the fight on Saturday.”
Smith has only boxed once since losing his world title to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2020, a brutal knockout of Gilbert Castillo Rivera in a fight that lasted less than four minutes.
But there are plenty of fighters – four in Britain alone – waiting for a world title shot at light-heavyweight and a win on Saturday will put him in a good position.
“Beterbiev is the fight I want,” he said. “I want to be a two-weight world champion. It’s packed division where there are a lot of fighters in a similar position waiting to be given an opportunity.
“I didn’t want to sit around and wait, I wanted to put myself in a position where the champion has to fight me. I’ve got to get through Bauderlique and then I can do that.
“I feel good. I’m in a good place physically and mentally. I’ve had long lay-offs before and come back and performed well and I’m sure I can do that’s again.”
Bauderlique may not be the biggest of names, but Smith is not about to take him lightly
“He’s a good, typical stand-up southpaw with good boxing ability,” Smith said. “He got a bronze at the Olympics. I’ve just got to be prepared for whatever he brings.
“I’ve had good sparring and I’ll adapt when I’m in there. This time I won’t leave Jeddah as a world champion, but I’ll leave having guaranteed myself a shot. I’m at a similar stage of my career and I want to become a world champion. I’ve got that hunger.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.