George Groves, 25-3, 18 KO’s, is a very bright guy. Following his impressive win at the weekend he may well be heading back across to the States Or sit waiting in the UK for yet another massive fight – but more of that later.
Just exactly how he has managed his career and given us one of the best fights of the decade should not be lost in amongst the hype and the hope when he gets his 4th world title attempt on merit. If you accept, as many of us do, the trope that it is not how hard you fall but how you get back up again and carry on, then George Groves might just be your genius.
Hailing from the capital city of London, no matter how fantastic his amateur pedigree was, Groves is quick to point out that his victories in the amateurs included beating one James DeGale, 23-1, 14 KO’s, – a feat he repeated in the professional ranks.
According to his own website, Groves’ amateur record included 75 fights, with 2 ABA titles and no fewer than 9 international Gold Medals. Groves was also a European champion kickboxer, frequently popping up on the sports channel, Eurosport before he made the jump to purely boxing. His professional move came in 2008 when he took the risk of signing with the new Hayemaker stable with boxer, David Haye and trainer, Adam Booth.
It took only 9 fights before he was the Commonwealth super middleweight champion when he stopped Charles Adamu, 28-9, 22 KO’s, in the 6th round. All seemed to be rosy and then Setanta Sports went belly up in 2009 and the TV deal with Hayemaker was gone. Adam Booth continued to train him but he moved to Frank Maloney as his promoter. It was not to be his first promotional change.
On the 21st May 2011, the long awaited and very much anticipated grudge match with DeGale happened at the 02 Arena in London. Groves brought the Commonwealth strap, DeGale the British title. We sat back and awaited a classic. We got one which was evenly matched but between Adam Booth’s guile and game plan and a very adept Groves who showed his skills time and again in the ring Groves walked with both titles in a very narrow majority points win.
DeGale wanted a rematch. DeGale’s promotor, Frank Warren then announced he had signed Groves to a 3 year deal. Both being under Warren meant it was more likely than not that a rematch would happen; but it hasn’t happened yet.
roves’ career was to go in a different direction.
In 2012, having proven his ability with 2 more wins, he was given the opportunity to fight for the WBO title. Agonisingly injury forced his withdrawal. He did get back into the ring that year and with further spectacular wins he put himself right in the mix for a massive fight against Carl Froch, 33-2, 24 KO’s, in November 2013 as the IBF made him mandatory challenger.
In mid September, Groves’ preparations for the fight took a surprising turn as Adam Booth left the camp. Only Booth and Groves know the truth but, of course there is plenty of speculation as to why they parted company. No matter what the truth of it all, Groves dropped Froch in the first then was stopped controversially in the 9th. Boos rang out around the arena as Groves had gone into the fight as the villain and left as the nearly hero. Much was written, said and thought about this young gun who had brought an A game and then been denied the victory he was heading towards by what some saw as an over cautious referee. I am afraid I do think the referee was right but trust me, there were and there still are, many who vehemently disagree with me.
From there, there could only be one next fight – a rematch.
May the 31st and in Wembley, 80,000 fans, the biggest number at a boxing match in the UK since World War Two, saw George Groves arrive in a London bus and depart, once more, without winning those belts. In Groves’ corner was his new trainer, Paddy Fitzgerald in what was the biggest fight of any fighter’s career in the UK. Despite losing he kept Paddy in his corner and had to pick his chin and his career off a canvass for the next chapter.
Groves was not a burnt out fighter, he was not a busted flush but he was sitting and wondering how it was possible that he had lost not once but twice. Lost to a fighter he was convinced that he could beat; he still does think that. His resolve was being tested once more. It was not long before the hunger was filled again and he was ready to take it up a level to where he would be crowned at the top of his profession.
What he did next was clever. He took on and beat Christopher Rebrasse, 24-5-3, 6 KO’s, for the European title. This was a very dangerous fight and would prove to Groves what he thought he knew – that he still had the desire and the belief to get to that summit. It made him mandatory WBC challenger and with another fight between that and his 3rd world title tilt, Groves was ready to be in the opposite corner to Badou Jack, 21-1-2, 12 KO’s.
The story of that night seems to come down to communication and trust between boxer and trainer. Groves believed that he had won the fight because his trainer, Paddy Fitzgerald, had not warned him that he needed to step it up. Most people in the arena thought Jack was doing enough but it was close. To hear he had lost to a split decision, devastated Groves. You could see it in his eyes and you could hear it in his voice. If any fighter was going to chuck it then I believe that was the time that Groves came closest in his career.
Groves then did another clever thing and now he stands on the brink of yet another world title tilt. He stopped Andrea Di Luisa, 18-4, 14 KO’s, at the Copper Box in London, in January of this year. He then took on an unbeaten young fighter in Scot, David Brophy, 17-1-1, 2 KO’s. Brophy was not at his level but he was unbeaten. This is one of those contests that could have gone very badly. He knocked Brophy out in the 4th round. His stock was rising again.
Then he faced up to Martin Murray, 34-4-1, 16 KO’s. This was a massive 50/50 fight that again could have left Groves with nowhere to go. It was a consummate performance and the WBA international super middleweight title he won against Brophy was retained.
Then last weekend, Groves ended 2016 with a massive fight against Eduard Gutknecht, 30-5-1, 13 KO’s. Gutknecht had a pedigree, he had fought the best and again this was a possible drop in his career. He was sublime though with Gutknecht in surgery after the fight any celebrations were curtailed. He is up for the winner of DeGale/Jack. If DeGale wins then the fight would be a massive fight in the UK – though Callum Smith, 21-0, 16 KO’s, is the mandatory challenger. If Jack wins then Groves is likely to be on his way back to the USA.
No matter what the result of the DeGale/Jack fight, Groves is the real deal and whilst I was a Froch fan, I am now very much part of Saints marching in on another world title – there has seldom been a more worthy champion who would prove finally that true champions go through their own hell to victory.Contact the Feature Writers