CHRIS EUBANK JR stood waiting for George Groves. He planted himself at the centre of the stage, waiting for the WBA super-middleweight champion’s approach. He rubbed the knuckles of his right hand, already in a thin glove, itching it seemed to be thrown in anger on Saturday night. Boos and jeers rang out from the hall at the Hilton Hotel, densely packed with fans for today’s George Groves vs Chris Eubank Jr weigh in. The sound reached Eubank, he was more than aware of his surroundings. None of it phased him though. He fed on it. Eubank stood poised, nostrils flared, looking every inch a fighter.
Groves however did not miss a beat. Wearing sunglasses like movie star, with an entourage including boxing legend Barry McGuigan trailing in his wake, he brushed past Eubank, the corner of his mouth curling up in a smile.
Eubank had a legend of his own at his side, his father, Chris Senior, a sheriff’s badge pinned to his jacket, glinting in the soft light.
Both made weight well. Groves a trim 167.1lbs and Eubank, even though he is rising from middleweight and is the smaller man, was fractionally heavier at 167.6lbs.
Off the scales, all of a sudden, Groves, now without the sunglasses, rounded on Eubank and marched up to him. His head jutted forward and he went nose to nose with his challenger. There could be no mistaking the champion’s intensity. Eubank gazed back at him, answering his stare. A muscle in Eubank’s jaw twitched. A glimmer of nerves, maybe, or his own barely contained ferocity, it was impossible to tell.
Eubank began to speak to Groves, snapping at him, more animated than we’re accustomed to seeing.
“I told him he’s not ready,” Eubank declared. “He doesn’t want to be here. He wants to get put into retirement so that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday night. I’m taking that belt home.”
He turned to the crowd. “Do I look nervous?” he cried. “Tune in, ITV Box Office, George Grove is getting knocked out cold.”
“I’m excited, I made weight and now I’m ready to go,” Groves calmly said later.
It was almost simple as he saw it. “I’ve been here done this so many times now. I know what works for me. And I’m winning.”
Kalle Sauerland, the promoter who had the daunting task of parting the two of them, felt the same thrill as the crowd. “I didn’t expect that. When I saw George pacing over to him and really push his face in his face. Having spent a lot of time with both of them around build ups, you could tell they both want that first bell to go badly now,” he told Boxing News. “It was intense, very intense.”
“Forget the tactics, that’ll go out the window. The first one who hits, that’ll cause a reaction,” he added. “I am convinced we’re going to see an amazing first round. I’m convinced of it.”
In a little over 24 hours that first bell will ring. Groves versus Eubank. It’s nearly time.