Feature | Feb 14 2018

George Groves, Chris Eubank Jr and the perception of fear

George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr face one another at the final press conference, John Dennen hears what they see
George Groves
George Groves & Chris Eubank Jr Press Conference  |  Action Images/Jason Cairnduff

BOXERS look for tells. A sign of weakness, an exposed vulnerability that they can exploit. Maybe it’s a glove dipping down, just enough to reveal the punch an opponent is about to throw. Or a sound, a gasp that might betray the pain caused by a body shot. Those habits extend beyond the ring. When fighters meet ahead of a contest they can’t help but observe their rival and see if they are giving anything away.

Chris Eubank Jr has the blank, expressionless face of a consummate poker player. He sat cooly at a busy press conference Wednesday (February 14) in Manchester, answering questions with the occasional smile and exchanging jibes with George Groves, the WBA super-middleweight champion whom he challenges on Saturday.

But Groves saw something else. He saw a new anxiety in his antagonist. “Every time he said something a little bit argumentative, he had to open a bottle and have a drink of water. I’m no psychiatrist or anything like that [but] little, little things, little changes I thought showed signs of nerves. He must be nervous. He’s on the big stage. He’s got to question everything he does,” the champion said. “If you’ve done something and got it right, you know it works. He’s never done any of this before so is thinking: Have I done too much press? Should I have got a trainer? Should I have got better quality sparring? Should I now reconsider?