GEORGE GROVES told us all along.
Perhaps everyone should have believed him from the start. Perhaps everyone should have given George Groves more respect, considering the mountains he’d climbed and what he went through while doing so. But no doubt tonight, inside the Manchester Arena, George Groves turned in a tremendous showing which made those who didn’t believe him feel a little bit silly. He won’t be doubted again in a hurry.
It was supposed to be a two-way war. It was supposed to be too hard to call. After 12 rounds, only one judge saw it that way, the 115-113 that Marcus McDonnell scored was way too close. The other two tallies of 117-112 and 116-112 were more in keeping with reality but still didn’t tell the story of almost total dominance from the pre-fight underdog.
Boxing News predicted a points win for Eubank Jr. So too did Boxing Monthly. So too did many educated opinions.
We were all wrong, and it looked that way before the fight had even started.
Groves’ ringwalk, laced with Eubank mimicry and an obvious desire to behead his rival, set the tone. The excitement, whether watching at home or up close was, as they say, off the hook. But the contest, firstly due to Groves’ exemplary research, preparation and superior skills, and secondly down to Eubank Jr’s ragged and wild approach, was never in the balance once the opening bell was heard.
Eubank was bundled to the floor several times, and – as early as the first round – he almost hit the deck due to a searing left hand.
Considering Groves was supposedly the more fragile of the two, his strength under every Eubank onslaught must now, at last, put a stop to the myth that the Brightonian is an unstoppable machine. In 2014 he was outscored by Billy Joe Saunders, yet his fightback at the end of that encounter papered over some now obvious cracks in his armoury.
To move forward, he must address his approach and his desire to appear a one-man show. At times, as his windmill arms missed the target so flagrantly, he looked like a novice.
His fitness and desire to win should not be doubted, nor should his bravery after enduring a badly cut right eye early on, but his ability to work it out as he goes along, at least in his current guise with an insistence he can do everything without a trainer, a plan or homework, should now always be questioned.
It’s true he comes on strong at the end but tonight, even when Groves had badly hurt his shoulder, it was obvious he would need many more rounds than the scheduled 12 to get the better of his opponent. It’s been a long time, and in an era far removed from this one, that boxing was a fight to the death, after all.
Groves deserves all the plaudits. He deserves all the credit and prize money and titles. He turned a pick-em fight into a one-sided shellacking.
George Groves knew it all along. He told us from the start. And, with his arm in a sling, he told us again at the end.
“The better man won tonight.”