With only a week to go until Groves vs Eubank Jr, it’s time to dissect their tantalizing WBSS Semi-Final. Besides this being an intriguing matchup between two of the world’s most fan-friendly fighters, it’s also significant for the 168-pound class itself. George Groves and Chris Eubank are in a must-win fight, not because a loss would torpedo either man’s career, but because it’s the only way to guarantee a place in the tournament’s final. Groves’ WBA belt is on the line to boot.
George Groves is one of the best, most determined fighters to come out of England. He doesn’t possess the perfect record or a superstar status, and it’s true that four attempts were needed to bag that elusive world title. But Groves has been consistently competitive in every high level outing thanks to great pedigree and ability to rise to the occasion. Groves continues to draw big crowds, and has been a constant presence in the Super Middleweight Top 10 for years.
Groves may be approaching one of the most anticipated events in the 2018 Schedule, but he’s no stranger to big fights, and even the stadium-filling variety. Let’s break down Groves’ biggest outings:
- James DeGale (MD 12) – In a bout of then-unbeaten prospects that, in hindsight, probably happened too early, Groves bested amateur rival DeGale on razor-thin scores
- Carl Froch (LOSS: TKO 9) – The bout was tainted by a premature stoppage, but Groves proved his worthiness at world level, dropping Froch and showcasing his class
- Carl Froch (LOSS: TKO 8) – This time Groves was conclusively knocked out, but once again managed to produce a memorable war before a sold out Wembley stadium
- Badou Jack (LOSS: SD 12) – Groves came up short against the well-rounded Jack, but Groves’ gritty, third failed world title shot was extremely close, with a win strongly debatable
- Martin Murray (UD 12) – Groves deserved to get the nod, but the fight was close, with Murray having his moments and Groves’ gas tank emptying down the stretch
- Fedor Chudinov (TKO 6) – Groves fought fire with fire against the stalking, granite-chinned Chudinov en route to scoring an emphatic stoppage and picking up the vacant WBA title
- Jamie Cox (KO 4) – Groves didn’t always look comfortable against the tenacious, then-unbeaten Cox, but made a body shot count in the 4th round of the WBSS first stage
- Size: Groves is about as naturally a fully-fledged Super Middleweight as you’ll find. He’s strong and nicely filled out at the weight, and, so far as I can tell, is still comfortable making 168, where he’s campaigned his whole pro career
- Experience: It’s a given that Groves has a wealth of experience behind him, having mixed it up with a varied crop of top-drawer talents like Carl Froch (twice), Badou Jack, Martin Murray and Fedor Chudinov
- One-Punch Power: Groves is a naturally powerful puncher, and his timing and ring IQ can make him a very dangerous opponent – as even the steely-whiskered Carl Froch found – capable of delivering one-punch knockouts
- Dynamic: Enhanced further by a strong amateur background, Groves has great fundamentals and ring smarts, allowing him to trade in close quarters, box well at range, or on the back foot
- Stamina: It’s true that Groves’ tank can run dry as the fight reaches the championship rounds, witnessed against the likes of Badou Jack, and most notably against Martin Murray
- Vulnerability: Groves isn’t a ‘chinny’ fighter per se, but he does seem to be shaken/rattled easily, particularly when against the ropes, as most recently witnessed against sizeable underdog Jamie Cox
- Inside Game: While Groves is a formidable mid-to-long range fighter, his defensive (once again, particularly when pinned against the ropes) can be leaky
- Will Groves’ stamina fail him should the fight head into the later rounds?
- Can Groves handle Eubank’s pressure/volume punching?
- Does Groves have too many miles on the clock to compete with a highly conditioned, fresher Eubank?
- Groves may have mixed with many styles at the top-level, but will he be prepared for the unorthodox style of Eubank?
Despite having only thirty fights to his name, we know just about all there is to know about Groves. He’s been ambitious and competed at a high level, and – in throwback style – hasn’t bypassed hard championships. And perhaps that’s what we need to look at more closely: Groves’ experience at world level. Most recently, Groves became the first man to stop a technically respected, prime Fedor Chudinov.
So here’s the question: Is Eubank better than Chudinov? Could Eubank hang with him, or, the likes of Badou Jack and Carl Froch? It certainly gets you thinking. However, there’s still that nagging doubt that Groves may be slipping just a little. And that Eubank could be that special talent who’s going to lead a new generation. For me, Groves needs to box smart, discourage Eubank with counters, reset Eubank with movement, and take enough necessary risks, trading big shots if forced.
How do you see George Groves’ chances next weekend? Does the textbook style of Groves trump Eubank’s speed and unorthodox skill set? Let us know in the comments.