Liam Smith, the 2/1 outsider, could surprise odds-on favourite Chris Eubank Jr in Manchester according to former world champion George Groves.
'Saint George' has fond memories of sharing a ring with Chris Eubank Jr having scored the final victory of his professional career against the Brighton-born fighter back in 2018.
The 34-year-old registered a UD triumph at the Manchester Arena to dethrone 'Next Gen' of his IBO super-middleweight crown and retain his prized WBA super-middleweight strap in the process.
That success almost five years ago was only the second time that Eubank Jr had been beaten in his career, with old-foe Billy Joe Saunders inflicting a first loss on his previously unblemished record three and a half years earlier in London.
Since his last setback at the hands of Groves in the World Boxing Super Series, Junior has reasserted his standing on the world stage, defeating James DeGale in 2019 to capture the IBO (regular) super-middleweight title before dropping down to the 160-pound division to land WBA interim middleweight honours.
And on the back of victories over the likes of Wanik Awdijan and Liam Williams, Eubank Jr knows that a follow-up success over Liam Smith in Manchester this month could make him mandatory for a shot at one of Gennadiy Golovkin's WBA or IBF middleweight straps.
However, despite being the odds-on 4/11 favourite to chalk up a seventh straight win over 2/1 shot Liam Smith in BOXXER's forthcoming PPV event, Groves is far from convinced that his former opponent will prevail victorious.
Speaking to bet365, he said: "I, like a lot of others, make Eubank Jr the favourite - he has natural size, he has the reach advantage and he is the A-side.
"But listen, this could be a banana skin for Eubank Jr - it really could, because Liam Smith is a very, very solid operator.
"When this fight was made I was like, 'really?! I just couldn't see that the risk for reward value was there against Smith, who is a former world champion himself.
"It really is a banana skin. Liam is a very neat and tidy boxer, who does a lot of things really well.
"For me, it all depends on which Eubank Jr shows up. He needs to come in and throw a high volume of shots, dig Smith downstairs and try and hurt him to the body.
"He has to show he is the bigger man and put him under real pressure. Eubank Jr is back down at middleweight now, and if he is really cut and really tight then it is going to be difficult for him - that weight cut will catch up on him.
"I do think Eubank Jr will win this fight, but, and it is a big but, he is certainly not a big favourite in this one at all. Not for me anyway."
Eubank Jr v Smith headlines a fantastic night of boxing at Manchester's AO Arena on Saturday 21st January - with the event being shown live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Unbeaten cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe (1/8) offers chief support on the evening against Krzysztof Glowacki (9/2), whilst former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and aspiring world champion Frazer Clarke are both also in action.
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