Callum Smith paid tribute to George Groves after his former opponent retired – and believes he defeated the “best” world champion at super-middleweight.
Groves confirmed the end of his career after his reign as the WBA ‘super’ title holder was ended by a seventh-round knockout defeat to Smith in the World Boxing Super Series final in September.
The Liverpudlian was proud to finally settle his rivalry with Groves, who claimed wins over James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr during an eventful career which included two dramatic defeats to Carl Froch.
“After our fight, I kind of had the idea that might be it for him,” Smith told Sky Sports.
“There was always the big question whether he would carry on, or not. Obviously he’s had a good career, so I wasn’t too surprised no.
“I said before and after the fight, it was a great experience to share the ring with him. He’s had a great career.
“When I turned professional, he was always someone higher up the ranks, and I envisioned that are paths would cross eventually. Becoming a world champion was good, but I believe at the time, I beat the best in the division in George, which was something I always wanted to do.”
Groves became world champion at the fourth attempt when he beat Fedor Chudinov in Sheffield in 2017, and Smith believes that emotional victory boosted his popularity amongst British fight fans.
Asked how Groves will be remembered, Smith said: “Partially due to his low points, and to come back and win a world title in his fourth attempt was a good story.
“I think even people who didn’t like him, probably liked him after winning his world title. Probably happy that he did finally achieve it after what he’d been through.
“There’s been good memories, he’s been in a lot of big domestic fights, which are the ones people remember and he’s come out on top on most of them, but even the ones he fallen short on, he’s always been in a good fight.”
After taking the WBA title, Smith is now Britain’s standard bearer in the division, and he hopes to eventually surpass the achievements of Groves.
“I’ve become world champion, but I would like to have a few big nights, so I’m remembered better,” he said,
“I wouldn’t want to finish where I am now. There’s a lot of big fights left in me, and if I can have a career like George Groves, hopefully just minus the low points.
“He’s had a great career and a career that a lot of people would be proud of and he’s financially earned a lot, achieved a childhood dream, become world champion and been about very big fights.
“I’m sure he can retire with no regrets.”