GEORGE GROVES’ training has developed. He split with Adam Booth ahead of his first fight with Carl Froch in 2013 and was trained by Paddy Fitzpatrick for his subsequent world title fights up to the loss to Badou Jack. After that he linked up with Shane McGuigan with whom he won the WBA super-middleweight crown.
“It is difficult finding a trainer. I was fortunate working with Adam because he was a good trainer, he showed a lot of interest in me although I had to work hard for it. But it was there and it worked for a certain amount of time. Moving on to Fitzpatrick, I knew it wasn’t right but I got so much stick for moving on in the first place and it was so difficult finding a trainer that I stayed in that situation for too long and in many ways I was training myself. And you put emphasis on stuff that you can control,” Groves said. “The boxing side of things just wasn’t right. If I go back and assess it now with a bit of hindsight, which is lovely, I feel that tactics were just continuously wrong. He was training all the goodness out of me, trying to make me into a fighter that doesn’t suit me, a fighter that I don’t want to be. As I say because of that you start thinking, ‘Well, I’ll just get fitter, I’ll just get lighter, I’ll get stronger, I’ll run faster, I’ll do more runs.’ I’ll do all the things that are easily controllable and sort of get you through camp. Tick all the boxes there. I wasn’t quite happy with the sparring, not sure why I’ve just done eight weeks of pads where I’ve been discouraged from punching hard because I’ve got so much ‘natural power’ and all this stuff. It took a while to come away from that, realise this ain’t right.
“Before Fitzpatrick wanted me to step into range and keep left hooking people. He was just nullifying everything that I did well.”
Groves trains with power and precision, all mapped out by Shane McGuigan. “I remember going into Shane’s gym, seeing all the kit that he’s got in his gym, thinking he’s got kit that suits me,” the champion recalled. “He’s got a woodway curve treadmill, where you have to power it yourself… The harder you drive on it the more fatiguing it is. You can’t get on it and do 20 minutes. You can get on it and do 20 seconds. Then you’ve got to get off rest and go again. So that’s just one bit of kit where I thought that’s an expensive bit of kit, he must really believe in that to have it in here. We do. I’ve used it every camp since. Put it in the circuits and stuff like that. This gym now, we’ve got a track on the end so you can do your sledge drags, prowler pushes and stuff like that. These are all functioning exercises I believe. They’re not there because they look good on Instagram.
“They work. They get you in shape.”
He respects McGuigan’s technical qualifications and his track record. “He wasn’t quite ‘the PE teacher’ that senior refers to. He has worked in commercial gyms before, he has qualifications. He understands nutrition, anatomy and stuff like that. He’s also now got experience of preparing fighters,” Groves continued, “The pad session with him [McGuigan] straight away, he knows what I want from boxing, let’s see how we go from here and we have gone from strength to strength. But that’s what a trainer is. A trainer is someone who can observe, understand you and push you in the right direction. That’s what you will always need. You expect them to do that on fight night, giving you the right instructions, warming you up correctly. But in the gym obviously. I’ve always had success with trainers who do a lot of good quality padwork. Even when I started at Dale Youth, that’s what our coaches were. I don’t know how they did it but they each did four or five hours of padwork a night because they made sure everyone got that one on one time. I get a lot of one on one time with Shane. That’s where we drill the stuff we then take into sparring, make sure that the sparring works, take it to the fight and so far it’s worked in every fight. I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own. Because if you had to do it on your own, you’d say right well I’m just going to hit the bag for 12 rounds. The bag doesn’t hit back, the bag doesn’t move, the bag doesn’t make you adjust your feet. It doesn’t make you block. You can’t even punch the bag correctly or I can’t because you can’t throw a right hand and then an uppercut on the bag because they’re not the right shape for it. So maybe you design some little pad machine that’s got a hundred different angled pads. But again you’re hitting that right over there and then you’re hooking that left hand over there. It’s not realistic. I believe that a good trainer is worth it’s weight in gold.”
“I’m a power athlete,” Groves noted. “I like to hit people hard and the [training with Shane] was geared being around a powerful athlete. Although he’s smaller, when he was working with Carl Frampton, Frampton’s energetic, he’s dropping back and letting his hands go, he’s throwing far more shots than I ever would but that’s what the small guys do. But the fact that he wants to punch hard, make people miss and then punish them, that’s what I do.”