GEORGE GROVES has lifted the lid on what really happened when he sparred middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin in 2014.
Groves travelled to Golovkin’s training camp in Big Bear, California for a short period of time, and shared a fair few rounds with the unified 160lb champion.
Martin Murray, who Groves faces in a terrific super-middleweight clash on Saturday, today claimed the Hammersmith fighter ‘quit’ during his sessions with ‘GGG’ and swiftly flew home.
“Disappointing from Martin Murray, talking about sparring. The truth of the matter is, it is only sparring, what does sparring matter?” Groves said to Boxing News.
“I was fat and out of shape, and it was more the trip to Big Bear that came up and I was intrigued by it, so yeah I went and sparred Golovkin.
“It was 110 degrees in his gym, we were doing four minute rounds with 30 seconds rest, and I did hill sprints that morning, and I’d landed a day and a half before so I’m jet-lagged and it’s [high] altitude. I put myself in the most difficult situation you could possibly be in.”
Groves was at the beginning of his preparations for Christopher Rebrasse – his first fight since back to back defeats to Carl Froch – while Golovkin was at the tail end of his camp for a fight with Daniel Geale.
Golovkin has previously commented on the sparring, noting that he may have ‘broken’ Groves’ ribs and that the Londoner was carrying a bit of weight at the time.
“The first spar, he caught me with a fair few shots. The second time, I gave a real good account of myself, but that was the day he caught me with a left hook round the side of the rib,” Groves revealed.
“I felt something that didn’t feel normal, I carried on with the spar, I didn’t go down or roll around in agony, I didn’t quit. The funny thing is, Gennady was sparring with this body protector on, he was getting ready for a fight, he didn’t want any injuries, and they offered me one and I’ve never used one so I though it’d get in the way so I said ‘no it’ll be alright, I won’t need it.’ Sod’s law, I ended up cracking a rib.
“The truth is, I was coming home after that anyway because I had a bereavement in the family but no one knows because I don’t talk about my business all the time, I keep my private life private.”
Murray took Golovkin into the 11th round – the farthest he’s ever needed to go in a fight – in February 2011, before eventually wilting. The St Helens man, despite being floored several times, kept fighting back and had periods of success in the fight.
He claims that Groves ‘quitting’ in sparring against Golovkin is a sign of weakness, though George feels his foe is merely looking for false signs of encouragement.
“He needs something to hang his hat on; ‘well I got absolutely obliterated by Golovkin but I did last 11 rounds and George had to quit in sparring so that puts us on the same page.’ No mate, because if I was scheduled to fight Gennady Golovkin I’d be fit and in shape and it’d be a far different outcome,” he continued.
“He knows he’s going to be in for a torrid time, and as the rounds go on he’s going to need something to keep him in there, whether that be ‘he’s going to get tired’ or ‘work his ribs because Golovkin cracked one, Carl Froch knocked him out, he’s chinny.’ In the heat of battle, these are the things he’ll revert to but we’re going to give him nothing.”
For the most part, the pair have kept things amicable though some barbs have been traded as the clock’s wound down to fight night. At a press conference earlier today, Murray stated that Groves looked like he is struggling at the weight, and said he empathised with him due to his time at 160lbs.
Groves, never one to shy away from some pre-fight verbal sparring, responded to Murray’s claims but also paid respect to the 33-year-old.
“It’s a huge fight, it’s a funny one because as it’s not the main event [it serves as chief support to Anthony Joshua vs Dominic Breazeale] so it could get semi-overlooked. I don’t think it will though.
“When you get into fight mode it sometimes sounds like you’re talking your opponent down – I know Martin Murray is a very good fighter and I need to be at my best to beat him, but I feel I’m better than him. I’m not lightyears ahead of him, of course not, he’s world class, but I feel I’ve got a lot of natural advantages.
“Granted, I do look a bit bigger since I’ve been working with Shane [McGuigan, his trainer] but I feel that’ll be to my advantage. I’ll hit him [Murray] with hard, heavy shots and he’ll feel the power of a natural super-middleweight. He hasn’t boxed a proper super-middleweight yet, [Arthur] Abraham [who outpointed Murray last year] has been at super-middle a long time but his best was at middleweight.”
Murray and his team also questioned the mental state of Groves who, after suffering stoppage defeats to Froch, the second of which came from a thunderbolt right hand in front of 80,000 people (apparently), had looked less explosive than usual.
However since teaming up with McGuigan earlier this year, Groves insists his levels of motivation are still as high as ever – but feels Murray is putting too much stock into his desire.
“When a fighter’s struggling to find natural advantages, they’ll start picking holes in other things. He keeps bringing up weight issues – we have no weight issues. He’s bringing up that he’s strong mentally and he’s going to grind out a win because he wants it more; well I’ve got a family, I’ve got a mortgage, I’ve been working to become a success in boxing my whole life. Who can say anyone wants it in boxing more than I do?
“Wanting it comes down to nothing, I found that out boxing Carl Froch for the second time because there was nothing more I would have given up in the world to have gotten up within the ‘eight’ count, but it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter how much you want it, if you get hit, that’s it.”