Chris Eubank Jr was supposed to be a one-man riot and the jab of George Groves was meant to be the police baton.
That’s what I visualised and wrote beforehand, before the two met at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night (February 17), and before we knew which of these super-middleweights would advance to the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
But now we know. We know Eubank Jr was less of a one-man riot and more of a strongly-worded email and that the need for any kind of reprimand on Groves’ behalf was minimal. No baton, no pepper spray, he merely skim-read the email, rolled his eyes, and sent it flying towards the trash can.
In 36 minutes, George Groves turned a supposedly dangerous man, a movement, ‘The Next Generation’, into nothing more than a peaceful protest. He did it with wisdom and fundamentals and he did it with experience. He’d seen this kind of danger before – won some, lost some – but now knew enough about himself, his strengths and weaknesses, and enough about so-called danger, to understand sometimes you get full-scale riots and sometimes you get one do-gooder with a placard who is scared to cross the road. (His father waiting in a car parked around the corner.)
“Go home, Chris,” his demeanour seemed to say. “And take your dad with you.”
Naseem Hamed, working as a pundit for ITV Box Office, explained it best when he said, “You’re either good at boxing or you’re not.”
‘The Prince’ said a lot of other stuff, too, but that line resonated, despite its simplicity, and went some way to explaining what had gone on between Groves and Eubank Jr. One was good at boxing; the other was not. The winner was good at boxing; the loser was not.
So superior was Groves, in fact, he didn’t need to exert himself the way he has had to in the past. He didn’t have to dazzle the way he did for six rounds against Carl Froch, for example, landing combination after combination and breaking the seemingly unbreakable, nor did he have to bite down and punch through Eubank Jr the way he did when winning the WBA super-middleweight title against Fedor Chudinov last May.
No, this, in comparison, was easy work for the Londoner. He moved, he controlled the range, he did a bit more punching than Eubank Jr, and he made his opponent’s missteps, of which there were many, seem as jarring as his father’s attire.
That said, it was a fight. It wasn’t the fight we expected – which is to say a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender – but it was a fight all the same, one that gave Eubank Jr a nasty cut by the side of his eye and saw Groves dislocate his shoulder in the twelfth round. The cut affected Eubank Jr’s ability to see, he claims, while Groves’ shoulder could scupper his spot in the final of the tournament, scheduled for June 2.
A cruel twist of fate, a final without George Groves, 28-3 (20), is no final at all. For the tournament to have any sort of meaning, he must meet the winner of next week’s semi between Callum Smith and Juergen Braehmer and do so when he’s good and ready. June would be ideal, of course, but if Groves learns his shoulder is in a bad way and is advised to give punching people a miss this summer, so be it. We wait. He has earned out patience.
“We have a scope for when the tournament has to be completed,” said promoter Kalle Sauerland. “We are hopeful. With those type of injuries he could train quickly again, but no-one knows until it’s been diagnosed by an expert.”
As for what happens to Chris Eubank Jr, 26-2 (20), a natural fighter with all the ingredients but no mixing bowl, we already know. The prophet Groves provided us with the answer before Saturday’s dressing down had even taken place.
“He’ll blame his dad and move back down to middleweight.”
Take heed, Team Eubank. It’s kinder than Hamed’s suggestion.