By Charles Brun: Former WBA World middleweight champion Hassan N’Dam (37-3, 21 KOs) is said to be facing WBA Super World super middleweight champion Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) on June 1 on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. on DAZN and Sky Sports Box Office at Madison Square Garden in New York. The news still hasn’t been confirmed by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes the 28-year-old Callum.
Picking out the 35-year-old N’Dam, a middleweight, as Smith’s next opponent instead of a top 15 ranking fighter from the 168-pound weight class is obviously a VERY odd choice by Hearn. N’Dam was recently stopped by Ryota Murata in the seventh round in their rematch on October 22, 2017. N’Dam has only fought one time since then in squeaking by former four time world title challenger Martin Murray in defeating him by a 12 round majority decision on December 22 last year at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Recently, N’Dam’s name popped up as a potential opponent for former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s next fight on June 8th, but he didn’t get the fight. GGG chose to face Canadian Steve Rolls instead for the fight. N’Dam would have been a far better choice than the 35-year-old inexperienced fighter Rolls. N’Dam would be a decent choice for a tune-up for GGG at middleweight, but he’s not a super middleweight though. With just one fight in the last two years, N’Dam hasn’t done enough to earn a title shot against Callum Smith. That’s the whole problem. For Hearn to pick out N’Dam, it would suggest that he didn’t feel comfortable enough to select one of the top 15 contenders in the World Boxing Association’s top 15 ranking.
Here are the top rated contenders in the WBA’s ranking at super middleweight that Callum Smith SHOULD be picking from:
1. John Ryder
2. Chris Eubank Jr.
3. Fedor Chudinov
4. Bilal Akkawy
5. David Lemieux
6. Peter Quillin
7. Zach Parker
8. Rocky Fielding
9. Vincent Feigenbutz
10. Aidos Yerbossynuly
11. Erik Bazinyan
12. Zac Dunn
13. Jayde Mitchell
14. Julio Alamos
15. Vladimir Shishkin
It’s hard to imagine that Hearn couldn’t get someone like Lemieux, Eubank Jr., Quillin, Chudinov or Akkawy to take the fight with Callum on June 1. But perhaps there’s not enough time for Hearn to find someone at such short notice at this point. Those guys aren’t exactly short notice fighters. It’s just a shame though that Callum would be making his first defense of his WBA super middleweight title against 35-year-old N’Dam rather than someone from the 168 lb class. Perhaps this is all Hearn could get on short notice though? Hearn is kind of in a bind here with him still needing to round out the Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr. card for June 1st, but not having a lot of time to find guys that can fill the card. Yeah, Hearn has a deep stable of fighters that he can pick from to fill out the Joshua-Ruiz Jr. card, but it’s going to be difficult for him to find top level fighters that would want to face his Matchroom fighters on short notice. At the same time, Hearn isn’t going to pit his own guys against fighters that could give them problems. If Hearn is going to match his fighters against quality guys, he’s going to want to make sure they have an entire eight week camp.
It’s a shame that Callum Smith would be reduced to defending his title against Hassan N’Dam rather than a top super middleweight like Lemieux or Eubank Jr. after all these months. It’s been eight months since the 6’3” Callum captured the World Boxing Super Series 168-pound tournament with a seventh round knockout victory over WBA Super World super middleweight champion George Groves on September 28 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. With eight months out of the ring, you would think that Hearn would find Callum a high quality opponent for him to match him against in order to take advantage of his surge popularity from his big win. But if the 35-year-old France-based N’Dam is all Hearn could dig up for Callum after all this time out of the ring, it’s disappointing to say the least. You have to wonder if Hearn is paying attention to the career of Callum at this point. If you’ve got a guy that is considered the best fighter at 168, why are you not keeping him busy by matching him against elite level fighters rather than pooling from the 160 lb. weight class to find an old guy that has fought only once in the passed two years?
N’Dam getting a title shot against Callum by beating 36-year-old Martin Murray is kind of troubling. It’s not that Murray isn’t a good fighter. It’s just that he’s not someone that you would think that would lead to a fighter getting a world title shot in weight class that he doesn’t compete at in the 168 lb. division.
N’Dam’s best career victories have come against Murata, Curtis Stevens, Alfonso Blanco, Max Bursak, Giovanni Lorenzo, Avtandil Khurtsidze, Omar Weiss and Gennady Martirosyan. Most of those wins took place many years ago. N’Dam hasn’t beaten anyone lately aside from Murray, who isn’t an elite level middleweight. He’s more of an opponent. Murray’s management has done a great job of getting him world title shots, but he’s never taken advantage of them. Hearn is probably desperate to find guys to fill out the undercard of the Joshua vs Ruiz Jr. card on June 1st. Boxing fans should be lucky that a talented super middleweight like Callum Smith is even being put on the card.
A number of fighters have been mentioned as guys that are interested potentially in facing Callum at 168. WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is one name that comes to mind. However, Hearn doesn’t talk much of that fight for obvious reasons. Bivol is looking unbeatable right now, and he would likely trounce Callum if that fight were to be made. It is a doable one though, as Bivol said he would be willing to drop weight to come down to 168 to face Callum. If Hearn made that fight, Callum would likely lose, and then it would hurt his popularity in a big way. Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez are also fighters that could one day in the near future move up to super middleweight to take on the likes of Smith. Obviously, they’re not going to want to do that if he’s rarely fighting, and doing nothing to increase his popularity. Hearn needs to keep Callum busy, preferably against talented opposition from the 168 lb division.