THIS week George Groves, the WBA super-middleweight champion, returns to the Manchester Arena, for the first time since his thrilling 2013 clash with Carl Froch. That was the first occasion Groves challenged Froch. Then he was a hefty underdog but Groves shot out of the traps in the opening round and in a stunning moment dropped iron-chinned Froch. Famously Froch recovered and came on strong in the later rounds only to see the referee pull out Groves and fuel a controversy that ultimately led to their monumental rematch at Wembley stadium.
“Really [trainer Paddy] Fitzpatrick and me got the tactics wrong. I had him up against the ropes in the first fight, I should have jumped straight on him and gone straight from there. I got it wrong. It happens, whatever. I’m in a good place now. It doesn’t keep me up at night. I’ve achieved my dream and now I’m just trying to capitalise on that,” Groves noted.
In fact, yet again, he has another super-fight on his hands. On Saturday (February 17) Groves fights Chris Eubank Junior at the Manchester Arena, defending his world title and fighting for a place in the final of the World Boxing Super Series.
Groves is adamant that his experiences with Froch have prepared him in ways that Eubank is yet to learn. “For the second Froch fight my mindset was: ‘I’m going to make this so big that once I win I don’t need anyone’. I don’t need to be invited to the Matchroom pool party, I’m going to be so big that I’m going to be able to have that element of control. I’m going to try to promote it as best I possibly could. It was a tightrope because the more promotion you do, the more risk you have alienating the fans. But win emphatically and people quickly forget. But get knocked out, you have a massive fall from grace and there is a massive task at hand to rebuild. I got knocked out. So I’m not necessarily the most PC guy and I’m not cheesy, I could never sustain being fake. I had to not just take it on the chin on the night, I had to take it on the chin after and rebuild properly with fights. I’d say I still think I can beat Carl Froch. I knew that would be the worst thing to say commercially. But I couldn’t eat that humble pie and be cheesy,” Groves said.
“I’m glad I learned my lessons.”
The Londoner believes Eubank is making the kind of errors he once committed. “I definitely looked beyond the Froch rematch. Not because I thought it was a foregone conclusion of winning but I was supremely confident I was going to do the job. I’d done too much PR in the process, which was very taxing, then come fight night, I’d obviously got it wrong. I should have made some more changes. There were rushed changes before the first because I needed a trainer. For the second fight, I probably should have brought in someone else as well. But it was a whirlwind thing. Which way do I get my rematch? We went through the IBF, got that and then because of that I was too busy trying to negotiate my purse, then promote it. It was really exciting, because I felt like it was all clicking for me. But at the same time, it was draining, it was taxing. Different obviously for Eubank this time round [but] I feel he wants to do that,” Groves said. “I think Junior might be looking beyond this fight. Like I did.”
“It’s a tough test. I believe I’m the best super-middleweight in the world right now. Certainly one of them. A legitimate world champion. He hasn’t boxed anyone as big, as fast, as good as me before. Probably the best opposition he’s been in against is [Billy Joe] Saunders, which was a good few years ago now, at domestic level. And Saunders has now really improved, obviously in the last fight. So fortunately for Eubank, his stock’s risen because Saunders has risen. (And it’s middleweight),” George continued.
He adds, “He hasn’t filled out into the super-middleweight division yet. He might do one day. But he certainly has it done it yet, that’s going to be a big, big factor.”
But Groves believes Eubank hadn’t even learned the right lessons from his loss to Saunders. “I thought Billy Joe would beat him more convincingly than he did. He obviously finished the fight stronger and it was a close decision,” Groves explained. “He [Eubank] decided to fully focus on fitness and being able to fight every second of every round. His dad probably critiqued him pretty hard after that. After you lose you think I need to listen to people because I’ve got it wrong. But since then he’s been exceptionally well matched. His little path, is it right? Is it wrong? It’s hard to tell. You’ll never know. Would he be commercially bigger if he’d signed in with a big promoter and let them do the job? Or would he not? If this tournament wasn’t here now where would he be? He’d be defending an IBO on ITV against unknown for no money. Don’t listen to the dad when the dad says he’s earned millions. Of course he hasn’t. You only need to count the pay-per-view numbers, count the ticket sales, how many were given away and how much it costs etc. etc. I just think that yeah they’ve done very well, whether they intended to or not in terms of commercially building his brand but they haven’t had the tests in terms of the fights to back up where he is commercially. Now he’s having to make that giant bridging step and it’s a step too far.”
“But you’ve got to win some fights first, do you know what I mean?” Groves cautioned. “Attach yourself to big names and not have a real fight [until now]. Obviously the big difference here, he’s in a fight.”
Groves thinks the footage they’ve released publicly speaks volumes, to the Eubank team’s detriment. “The dad jumps in. It’s the blind leading the blind. But I suppose there are people out there that think, that’s just brilliant. That’s how you’ve got to do it. They must know what they’re doing. In reality I don’t think they do,” Groves declared.
“As the fight’s getting a bit closer, many more people are seeing through it.”
No doubt has emerged yet from the Eubank camp though. The final say will take place on Saturday night.
The Groves vs. Eubank Jr Ali Trophy semi-final on 17th February is LIVE on ITV Box Office. It is available to buy NOW for £16.95.
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