Preview: Arthur Abraham vs. Paul Smith

Sports Mole previews the WBO super-middleweight clash between Arthur Abraham and Pail Smith which is taking place in Kiel in Germany this weekend.

This weekend will see British super-middleweight Paul Smith challenge for his first world title against WBO champion Arthur Abraham at the Sparkassen-Arena in Kiel.

At a time where the 168lbs division in Great Britain is littered with established and emerging world-class talent, Smith is caught at a crossroads in his career, but a win on Saturday evening would see him enter the mix for some lucrative encounters, both domestically and worldwide, in the future.

Below, Sports Mole assesses the bout in Germany, while also taking a brief look at the return of middleweight Matthew Macklin.

1. Arthur Abraham vs. Paul Smith

Ever since a fight between Arthur Abraham and Paul Smith was announced in the summer, many have been critical of the Liverpudlian being given the opportunity to compete for a world title on the back of four wins against opposition that has been domestic level at best.

However, regardless of whether he is deserving of his chance or not, Smith has earned himself the position of number three in the WBO, only lost three matches in 38 - two of them to James DeGale and George Groves - and won the British strap on two occasions. It's fair to say that boxers have been handed world title chances for much less than that in the past.

What has potentially played into Smith's favour is the lack of options to defend his domestic belt. A showdown with fellow Liverpudlian Rocky Fielding had been mooted before he failed to make weight for a Commonwealth match earlier this year, and facing brother Callum, who is making huge strides up the WBC rankings, was out of the question.

Paul Smith celebrates as the Referee stops his fight against David Sarabia during their Super Middleweight bout at the Motorpoint Arena on May 17, 2014© Getty Images

Being unable to defend his British title and holding a high ranking in the WBO has left Smith with no choice but to take stay-busy fights until an opening to face Abraham was made available, and rather than forming an opinion on him based on who he has beaten in the past, Smith should be judged on how he fares on Saturday night, because that will ultimately be the defining moment of his career.

In what is a stacked division, Smith is aware that this is probably his one and only shot of making an impact at world level and he knows that he must deliver in front of a packed crowd in Kiel. The 31-year-old will be eager to please his travelling support, with 1,000 Liverpudlians expected to make the short trip to mainland Europe, but he will also have to be smart against an opponent who has competed at world level for the best part of 10 years.

Much of the build-up has been spent talking about whether Abraham is past his best, but since being easily beaten by Andre Ward in 2011, the Armenian-born German representative has strung together eight wins from nine, which has twice seen him reclaim the WBO title after his one loss in three years came against long-term rival Robert Stieglitz.

Boxer Arthur Abraham looks on during a press conference on September 16, 2010© Getty Images

Like with Smith, the level of opposition can be questioned but Abraham has dealt with the majority of what has been placed in front of him. He may be 34, but he still retains the power and ruggedness that first made him a champion and despite his fourth-round loss to Stieglitz, he still has one of the best chins at this level.

The general feeling is that Smith's best, perhaps only, chance of victory is by decision and that's a tough ask for visiting fighters in Germany. However, while Smith has come up short in his previous big fights, he is capable of outsmarting Abraham to take him the distance, but whether he would be able to do enough to claim a points win, only time will tell on Saturday night.

2. Matthew Macklin vs. Jose Yebes

After beating Lamar Russ at the back end of last year, 2014 promised much for Matthew Macklin as he targeted another shot at a world title, but it's been a frustrating time for the Birmingham-born man who has seen two significant fights fall by the wayside.

The 32-year-old had been due to face former IBF title holder Daniel Geale before the event was scrapped, while a WBC eliminator with Jorge Sebastian Heiland was on the cards before Macklin's trainer Jamie Moore was shot twice in Marbella.

Macklin has now began training under the guidance of Joe Gallagher and a spot on the undercard in Kiel gives the middleweight a chance to not only shake off any ring rust before a more high-profile contest, but to also make a statement to a number of possible opponents for his appearance in Dublin in the winter.

Jose Yebes isn't expected to cause Macklin many problems on Saturday night, but he's credible opposition after a nine-month break. The 35-year-old has twice fought for the Spanish middleweight title while he also went the distance with Dane Patrick Nielsen in 2012.

However, the standout statistic on his professional record is that he has never been stopped so Macklin could have the chance to get eight rounds under his belt, but if he can force a stoppage, that will bode equally well for a career that needs kick-starting after three losses in his last five outings.

Matthew Macklin celebrates victory after defeating Joachim Alcine in their middleweight fight in Las Vegas on September 15, 2012
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