Callum Smith to take ‘massive step up in class’ vs. Nikola Sjekloca
Super middleweight Callum Smith anticipates “a massive step up in class” against title challenger Nikola Sjekloca on Nov. 22 at the sold-out Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
“I am expecting a tough 12 rounds because it’s a massive step up in class. [Sjekloca]’s only lost two fights and they were to world champions, so I know I am in a massive step-up but one that I ready for,” said Smith, 24.
“I wouldn’t ask for a fight like this if I didn’t feel I was ready. A lot of eyebrows were raised when the fight was made but I feel ready for it and it’s time for me to back up the hype and add my name to theirs. I think that 2015 can be a massive year for me if I win and win well.”
Smith (14-0, 11 knockouts) will face Sjekloca (28-2, 8 KOs) in a WBC title eliminator on a pay-per-view card headlined by a rematch between English cruiserweights Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew.
Sjekloca, 36, is 3-2 in his past five fights and will be after his third straight victory against Smith after having unanimously decisioned Jorge Rodriguez Oliver in his last fight on Saturday.
The lone setbacks for Sjekloca have been by unanimous decision in to Sakio Bika in February 2013 and WBO titleholder Arthur Abraham in May 2014. Between those losses, Sjekloca stopped Misa Nikolic in the second round in August 2013.
“If I come through this, then I can look at getting a final eliminator and I will have earned my position. Nothing has been given to me. I’m not asking for a world title shot,” said Smith.
“I am doing it the right way, having eliminators to move into the position. I feel that this time next year, I will be in a position to face whomever has the title and I’d be confident of winning.”
The card will also feature 168-pounders James DeGale, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and George Groves, who handed DeGale his lone defeat by majority decision in May 2011.
A southpaw rated No. 5 among THE RING’s super middleweights, DeGale, 28, will meet title challenger Marco Antonio Periban and RING No. 4-rated Groves, 26, takes on left-hander Denis Douglin.
Also on the card, RING No. 3-rated junior featherweight Scott Quigg will face Hidenori Otake of Japan, RING No. 8-rated bantamweight Jamie McDonnell battles Walberto Ramos and heavyweight Anthony Joshua, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, takes on Michael Sprott. Featherweight Stephen Smith will also be in action.
Note: Quotes from a release from Matchroom Sport.