Callum Smith has banished all thought from his mind of potentially fighting George Groves this summer.
The English super-middleweight is instead this week concentrating on late replacement Nieky Holzken, who stands between him and a place in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final.
Holzken, from the Netherlands, was drafted in to replace veteran Juergen Braehmer on Monday after the 39-year-old German pulled out of the eight-man tournament with ‘flu.
Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs), 34, was set to face Russia’s Dmitrii Chudinov on the undercard of Smith’s semifinal at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Nuremberg, Germany.
“I am committed to fighting on Saturday and will fight whoever the World Boxing Super Series puts in front of me,” said Smith.
The odds heavily favoured Smith (23-0, 17 KOs), 27, to beat Braehmer and are stacked even more on his side to beat Dutchman Holzken, who is better known for his kickboxing career.
Smith is widely expected to set up an all-English final with Groves.
“On paper, I have an easier semifinal than Eubank and Groves, they are both good fighters, but I thought I had a tougher quarterfinal than both of them,” Smith told ESPN. “I’ve not been thinking about who I fight in the final, I’ve been focusing on my semifinal. I’ve always taken one fight at a time.
“I would be very foolish to look past my semifinal with what’s at stake, me against Groves is a massive fight and that’s great motivation for me.”
Holzken only turned professional aged 29 and is also an active kickboxer. The Dutchman has fought around the world as a kickboxer, winning various titles, but has lost his last three fights.
As a boxer, all but one of his professional fights have been in his homeland.
“I’ve been waiting for this chance to come,” said Holzken. “I signed up as a substitute fighter so I’m in great shape and prepared for Saturday.
“I’ve watched Callum fight many times. I study everyone in my weight division. He’s a good, solid fighter. We’re both big body punchers. It will make for an excellent fight.”
Smith, who out-pointed (116-112, 117-110, 117-111) Sweden’s Erik Skoglund in his quarterfinal, will make a first defence of his WBC Diamond belt and is first in line to challenge WBC world super-middleweight champion David Benavidez, the American who made a first title defence by unanimously out-pointing Ronald Gavril last Saturday.
But Smith — the youngest of four boxing brothers (Paul, Liam and Stephen) from Liverpool — is first concentrating on Holzken before he can think about Groves and then a world title unification fight with Benavidez.
WBA world super-middleweight champion Groves beat his English rival Chris Eubank Jr by unanimous scores (117-112, 116-112 and 115-113) on Saturday to progress to the final.
“It really doesn’t matter who I am facing on Saturday,” said Smith.
“I wasn’t happy about my performance against Erik Skoglund in the quarter-final, but this time I will make a statement. Not only to the boxing fans, but also to George Groves. I want to put on a good show on Saturday.”
Groves (28-3, 20 KOs), 29, also needs to recover from a dislocated shoulder to face either Smith or Holzken in the final, scheduled to take place at the O2 Arena in London on June 2.
The WBA titleholder injured his left shoulder in a 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 unanimous points win over Eubank Jr and is waiting for results of scans to discover the extent of the injury.
The WBSS final may be moved back to later in June, or a replacement drafted in if Groves is not fit in time. Eubank and even former IBF champion James DeGale have been mentioned as possible substitutes for Groves.