It’s official. Undefeated Dutch super middleweight Nieky Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs) replaces Juergen Braehmer as Callum Smith’s Ali Trophy opponent after the German veteran was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s semi-final showdown in Nuremberg. Braehmer has been suffering from the flu and yesterday revealed he would be unable to compete against Smith at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung. Holzken was already on standby as a reserve, will now have the opportunity to earn a place opposite WBA & IBO World Champion George Groves in the final.
The 34-year-old Holzken is primarily known as a kickboxer, but in recent years he has split his time between boxing and kickboxing. The biggest name on his boxing resume is Viktor Polyakov (13-3-1, 6 KOs), a 2004 Olympian. That fight was two weeks ago. The big-punching Smith, rated WBC #1 and WBO #2 in the world, will be a huge step up in class.
“It is unfortunate for Braehmer particularly after such as strong showing in his quarter-final fight with Rob Brant,” said promoter Kalle Sauerland. “Fortunately, we are prepared for such eventualities and the tournament will move forward with our reserve fighter Nieky Holzken facing Callum Smith in our fourth semi-final.”
Holzken, who had been preparing to face Russia’s Dmitrii Chudinov, insists he is ready to gatecrash the World Boxing Super Series party, and the fighter from Helmond, Holland has already issued some words of warning for his new opponent Smith.
“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.”
“Callum, you better be ready, because I am, and I’m coming to beat you!”
WBC Diamond Champion Callum Smith and his trainer Joe Gallagher have spent the last months preparing for veteran southpaw Braehmer, but the tournament’s 2nd seeded super middleweight must now switch his focus to this new challenge.
“I gave an interview last week and said it’s great there have been no drop-outs,” said Smith. “Looks like I spoke too soon.”
“We got the call as we were boarding the plane. I am committed to fighting on Saturday and will fight whoever the World Boxing Super Series puts in front of me.”