Friday night in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, George Groves takes to the ring looking to stamp his authority on the super middleweight division. A win in this, the final of the 168-pound World Boxing Super Series, would see him claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy, the Ring Magazine belt as well as retaining his WBA (Super) title; oh, and snatching Callum Smith’s WBC diamond strap.
It feels like we have been following the career of George Groves for a lifetime. Now 30 years of age, the Hammersmith-born fighter has continued to keep himself relevant in the super middleweight division after a string of high-profile losses.
His now infamous back-to-back defeats at the fists of Carl Froch (and arms of referee Howard Foster) catapulted the ‘Saint’ into the public eye in Britain; Groves was still fairly green when he approached this grudge-match, with his inexperience against world class opposition proving his downfall.
Groves would go on to succeed at 168-pounds, and after claiming a version of the super middle world title against Fedor Chudinov, the Brit has gone from strength to strength under the new tutelage of trainer Shane McGuigan.
In a career that has seen ups and downs, what can be considered some of Groves’ most career-defining nights?
5. James DeGale, 2011
In May, 2011, George Groves and James DeGale both put their 0s on the line in an all-British slugfest at the 02 Arena. Winning a razor-sharp decision on the cards 115-115, 115-114, 115-114, the ‘Saint’ stated his claim as one of the rising stars of the super middleweight division, winning the British title off of ‘Chunky’ in his 13th professional fight.
It was nip and tuck throughout, and despite being wobbled in the third, rocked in the ninth and cut throughout, Groves showed his heart and his head, using his aggressive jab to full effect as he styled out the last few rounds.
After besting DeGale before in the amateurs, Groves signalled that he had his rival’s number after this bout, with both their careers taking different routes off the back of this grudge match.
4. Badou Jack, 2015
In his third attempt at world honours, Groves was handed his third professional defeat by Badou Jack on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather vs. Andre Berto.
Losing a split decision on the cards, 116-111, 115-112, 113-114, Groves felt aggrieved by the Nevada judges, however, admittedly the West Londoner didn’t do enough to recover from a first round knockdown from the Swedish-American.
Jack was more clinical in his punches over the twelve rounds and was able to land on the chin of Groves with relative ease. Groves was gallant in defence, however, left his attacks too late in the rounds to cause the WBC champion any major problems.
Groves was reported as feeling “desperate” after this loss and perhaps was the wake-up call his career needed.
3. Carl Froch, 2013-2014
Groves’ two losses to the ‘Cobra’ elevated his status to a level unthought of before the two super middles crossed paths. After dropping Froch in the opening round of their first fight in 2013 with a hard counter right hand, Groves dominated the champion until being stopped in the ninth in controversial circumstances.
Sure, Groves was hurt. Froch was digging in, biting on the gumshield and unleashing a barrage of punches swinging from the hips, however, Groves was giving back as much as he was taking. With his guard down, referee Howard Foster saw the challenger as unable to continue in the ninth - much to the dismay of Groves, the Manchester Arena, and myself, watching in disbelief.
The rematch was called for, accepted, and put on in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, breaking all post-war boxing records in Britain. Much like the first fight, Groves’ jab was dominating a lot of the early rounds, until Froch unleashed a humungous right hand that crippled Groves to the canvas in the eighth round.
The argument was settled. It was one of the finest one-punch knockouts you are likely to see; Groves would re-build, happily drawing a line under the Froch grudge with two healthy purses.
2. Fedor Chudinov, 2017
Groves finally realised his dream of becoming world champion in May 2017, on the undercard of Brook vs. Spence in Sheffield.
An entertaining encounter against the inactive Russian saw the ‘Saint’ stop Chudinov in the sixth round with an unanswered barrage of right hooks to the temple and vicious uppercuts. Chudinov showed his chin, staying on his two feet, however, the referee jumped in to stop the fight with 1:14 on the clock.
This was a huge moment in the career of George Groves; as “and the new” echoed around Bramall Lane, the champion was quick to reference the influence his trainer, Shane McGuigan, had had on his career. He said post-fight: “I’m usually a character who likes to be well rehearsed, but this time I’ve got no words. This is the end of a lifetime’s work. Shane McGuigan has resurrected my career. Now I’m mature enough to admit that.”
1. Chris Eubank Jnr., 2018
In the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series earlier this year, Groves showed a maturity in the ring that many questioned existed in the run-up to the fight.
Granted, Eubank Jnr. was tailor-made for the champion as the pair locked horns inside the Manchester Arena. Groves’ jab proved the difference once again – as it has in so many of his previous successes – with Eubank’s small flurries of pressure the only noticeable danger that the champion had to negate throughout the fight. Even as the final round ticked by, a late dislocated shoulder for Groves didn’t look like hampering his control over proceedings as he ducked and dodged his way out of late Eubank pressure.
Groves underlined his dominance at 168-pounds in this semi-final display against Eubank. He controlled the ring beautifully and was able to counter anything that the athletic challenger threw at him. Fighting with one arm during the majority of the last round never looked like undoing the eleven previous rounds of work; after 31 fights as a professional, we were witnessing peak George Groves.