George Groves defends his Commonwealth super-middleweight title on Saturday night when he faces veteran Glen Johnson. The fight now headlines a strong show at the Excel Arena, London, after original headliner Ricky Burns saw a world title defence collapse twice before being finally being cancelled.
Whilst the fight will be interesting, most people are finding it hard to get excited about it. Johnson ought to provide Groves with his toughest test to date but Groves should win comfortably. Johnson has been a good fighter, one who deserves an enormous amount of respect for what he’s achieved in his career, especially considering the misfortunes he’s suffered along the way, it’s just that he’s not a threat any more.
You probably have to go back to his first meeting with Chad Dawson to find the last time he’s been capable of potentially winning against a top level opponent. That’s the best part of five years ago, it’s true that he’s beaten decent B-level operators like Yusaf Mack and Allan Green since then but it was clear he was never going to beat Froch, Cloud or Bute when he fought them.
The ‘Road Warrior’ wasn’t destroyed or embarrassed by that level of opponent, he just wasn’t a threat to them. The biggest indicator of how far Johnson has faded was the defeat he suffered in his last bout against Andrzej Fonfara. Johnson looked his age in that fight, Fonfara isn’t even a B-level operator yet he had a surprisingly trouble-free night.
It’s telling that Johnson retired after the fight. He knew he’d not got anything left, and if he wasn’t beating the Fonfara’s of the world, then he wasn’t going to threaten at world title level again. You can never be totally surprised at a boxer making a comeback, given that nearly all of them do, but Johnson returning to the ring barely five months since retiring is slightly befuddling. If anyone can tell me what Johnson can achieve or can gain by fighting again, then please send me the answers on a postcard.
Groves isn’t in the top echelons of world boxing, he does aspire to be there though, and it’s hard to envisage a soon to be 44 year old impeding his progress. Very few boxers have an easy night with the durable Johnson, so Groves knows he’ll have to be sensible and pace the fight well, but he should be too quick, too fresh and too hungry for Johnson at this stage of his career.
The fight will be a good learning experience for Groves, who may have a problem or two to contend with early on. He showed he’s got a good boxing brain against DeGale, and with that in mind, he should be able to solve any problems Johnson creates and be in complete control by the midway point.
Groves has said he wants to stop Johnson, and whilst the Londoner does hit hard (12 KO’s in 15 fights), he’ll have his work cut out to halt the battle hardened Jamaican, who has only been halted once in 70 fights – by Bernard Hopkins.
If the stoppage does come, it’ll most likely be late on in the fight due to an accumulation of shots; it’s hard to see Johnson being taken out early or cleanly. The pick is for the fight to go the distance with Groves winning clearly, he’ll move on to bigger tests next year, whereas Johnson will most probably carry on as a trial-horse for up-and-coming prospects.