GEORGE GROVES seems happy. At the start of this year, as he prepared to come back from a defeat, to Badou Jack, that he just didn’t see coming, the likeable world title challenger was intensely introspective.
Three fights on and three quarters of the way through 2016, Groves has a strikingly different tone. Upbeat, he speaks of his next fight, to be broadcast on Channel 5 on November 18 with relish.
The revitalised George Groves gives a lot of the credit to new trainer Shane McGuigan. “Training alongside a really good team and just getting back to what I’ve always been. I’ve always been successful. I’ve always been able to box well, look good, that’s been the real motivation for me lately. The difference is night and day. I was an unbeaten fighter when I left Adam Booth, and I’m unbeaten since working with Shane. I truly believe that we’re going to go on and conquer the world. I don’t need to tread water, I don’t need to waste time,” he said.
Groves’ career has swept through intense highs and bitter lows already, from his victory over long term rival James DeGale to his feud with Carl Froch. “My fight with James DeGale, I was the hero. I didn’t really plan to play it that way. That’s just how it ended up. There’s video clips of people crying at the decision, strangers. Wow, what a lovely feeling and then a couple of years down the line I felt I’m behaving exactly the same way and people are booing and spitting at me walking into the ring, for the first fight with Froch, and then cheering me afterwards. People stopped me on the street: ‘I booed you on the way in and cheered you on the way out.’ And I said well that says a lot about you mate, doesn’t it? What do you want me to take from that?” George reflected.
He feels sympathy for Tyson Fury, a former England amateur teammate, who reached the pinnacle of the professional sport only to become swiftly disillusioned. “He’s certainly struggling and he certainly needs a lot of help I’d say. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying that,” Groves said. “It’s a lonely sport. It’s a difficult thing. You’re not protected as other sportspeople from other backgrounds might be.”
“You become disappointed,” he continued. “If you feel like an organisation is against you, if you feel like the TV channel you’re boxing for is against you, or that commentary was harsh, little things like that, if you think ‘the press are against me’, I think that can be much, much tougher. I’ve never felt that way inclined. I feel at times I’ve been the away fighter and got the away fighter backing, as it were. You win and it doesn’t matter anymore, so just keep winning.”
Groves is hoping that Tyson can recover. “I wish him well. We boxed together as teenagers for England and he always loved the game. He’s gone on to achieve more than most of us out there on the British scene, beating the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko, one of the best ever in the division. He’s certainly been the most dominant fighter of our era, alongside Floyd Mayweather and the likes of those. So I really wish him well. I hope he does recover. I hope he does box again,” George said. “But it seems like it’s going to be a bit of a process so I just hope he isn’t rushed back and I hope he gets over it.”