An unexpected turn of events has hit the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight semifinals, and now a kickboxing standout has a chance at becoming tournament champion.
Germany’s Juergen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) withdrew from this Saturday’s fight vs. Englishman Callum Smith (23-0, 17 KOs), citing a “feverish infection” that will leave him unable to compete in front of his home fans in Nuremburg. Instead, replacing Braehmer is none other than former Glory welterweight champion Nieky Holzken, who was a tournament alternate and was slated to face Dimitrii Chudinov on the undercard.
Holzken has a pro boxing record of 13-0 (10 KOs), but he’s not beaten any actual major contenders at super-middleweight. His last boxing match was just over two weeks ago, a second-round TKO of European veteran Viktor Polyakov, who is definitely the best opponent Holzken has beaten to date. This will be his first scheduled twelve-round bout, and he’ll understandably be a major underdog.
The 34-year-old Dutchman was widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound kickboxers in the world just a couple of years ago, having racked up 11 straight wins under the Glory banner, including multiple successful defenses of his welterweight title. Notable names on his ledger include Murthel Groenhart, Yoann Kongolo, Joseph Valtellini, and Karim Ghajji. His reign as Glory champion ended when he lost by split decision to Cedric Doumbe in December 2016, then had an identical outcome in the immediate rematch. Holzken’s most recent Glory appearance came last December, losing by decision to Alim Nabiev in the Netherlands.
Smith won his quarterfinal matchup vs. Erik Skoglund by unanimous decision back in September, and entered the tournament on the heels of this terrifying KO of Luke Blackledge. He’s the youngest of the four Smith boxing brothers, with Paul, Stephen, and Liam all managing varying degrees of success in their respective careers.
While it’s disappointing that an injury-free tournament has been hit at the worst possible time, it is pretty cool to see a world-class kickboxer get a short-notice opportunity to take on a rising super-middleweight contender.
The winner of Smith vs. Holzken will face George Groves in the 168-pound final... provided Groves’ shoulder injury suffered in the win vs. Chris Eubank Jr. isn’t a long-term problem.
Bloody Elbow will have coverage of the event, with an expected main event start time of 5 PM ET/2 PM PT on February 24th. ITV Box Office will broadcast the fight to UK viewers on pay-per-view, while select territories (including the United States) will get a free live stream through Youtube and Facebook.