“I FELT totally alone,” George Groves said quietly.
Boxing is the loneliest of sports. When the bell rings, the referee fades from view, leaving the fighter with just his opponent for company. But there’s a difference between being alone and feeling alone. When he finally squared up to Badou Jack in Las Vegas on September 12, George Groves’ support was far away. The fragile reassurance he used to take from his corner was now absent and, as if to make his doubts become real, Jack struck him down in the first round. If his third world title fight ended in a stoppage defeat, he wouldn‘t get another chance. But Groves, swamped by pressure, rose. He slowly stood back up.
“It felt like actual make or break,” he said. “You’re away from home, it’s make or break, you’ve waited so long for this, you feel like you’ve grafted for the last 16 months to get to this position just to get your shot. You can’t blow it. You know you’ve got to go out and win well because you’re away from home. It just felt difficult. You’re boxing and you get dropped in the first round. ‘Oh God.’”