By Thomas Lyons
WBA ‘Super’ Super Middleweight world champion George Groves conclusively defeated Chris Eubank Jr to successfully defend his title at the Manchester Arena last night, with all three judges scoring the fight in his favour with varying margins in the unanimous result. Groves’ masterful display of boxing skill, variation and intelligence showed who was the superior (not just bigger) man on the night with Eubank unable to show any methodology to his work.
Although particularly the last two scorecards, perhaps failed to reflect the dominance of Groves in the fight, it appeared that the No.1 seed had executed the perfect game-plan with trainer Shane McGuigan, to nullify Eubank’s bullish tactics on the inside, unable to manoeuvre around the accurate and sharp jab of Groves in order to land scoring shots.
Therefore, Groves was able to stamp down his authority from the opening bell, proving his superior size advantage and ring generalship at world level. The jab worked wonders in the first half of the contest not just gauging the distance between himself and Eubank but significantly hurting him when he mixed it up to the head and body. The overhand right gave Groves a lot of success also, emphasising the power he carries as a fully-fledged super-middleweight, unline Eubank. Groves had come into the fight 184.5 lbs which equated to over a stone heavier than Jr. Essentially fighting as a cruiserweight when he stepped foot into the ring, the naturally bigger frame of Groves told the story.
What was most surprising, and certainly Eubank noticed and felt throughout, was the speed of Groves’ work, that had been completely undermined by the challenger at the pre-fight press conference. Not just Groves’ ability to dictate the pace of the fight with his thumping jab and have complete control from the offset, but the ability to evade the lunging, wild swings of Eubank and counter effectively when forced onto the backfoot in stages of the fight. As was predicted, when Eubank lunged in constantly, hoping to land that telling punch, Groves walked him onto some big shots and created openings to the body.
It seemed the longer the fight fell away from Eubank, he became more desperate and reckless, not able to get behind his own jab and try to use smart tactics to upset Groves’ rhythm. This is where perhaps he needed someone in the corner to instruct Eubank how to turn the tie his way and show more urgency. Similar to the Billy Joe Saunders grudge match, Eubank never got going and took too long to let his hands go where he’s so used to having static opponents stand in front with their feet planted in order for him to tee off on. Not having a plan B, which should have incorporated some boxing skill and ring craft as opposed to a brawl made Eubank look amateurish and come unstuck with a lack of ideas. His attempt to smother Groves and land a flurry of combinations failed and meant Groves, not only could tie him up on the inside but box comfortably on the backfoot at his tempo.
The twelfth round was climatic, to say the least, with the Hammersmith man sustaining a dislocated shoulder, but it was too late for Eubank to take advantage, with Groves holding out for the victory and showing superb composure and patience throughout. Eubank had suffered a nasty cut above the right eye, with the blood flowing down the side of his face, not completely obscuring his vision but distracting him from keeping focused, attempting to walk Groves down. It would be a petty excuse to blame the bloodied eye and take full credit away from Groves’ control of distance and pace, in delivering an outstanding boxing display.
Now that Groves’ place in the final of the World Boxing Super Series has been confirmed, he must wait for examinations to reveal the extent of damage done to his left shoulder. The attention now turns to towards the other semi-final between Callum Smith and Juergen Braehmer in Nuremberg next week and will conclude who will be fighting for the coveted Muhammed Ali trophy in June. The format has run smoothly with fights scheduled on time but there is always a concern with injuries sustained in gruelling fights, whether the fighter will be fit enough to have another 10-12 week training camp ahead of the following leg in the tournament.
After last nights performance, Eubank will have to deal with the criticism that comes his way after all the hype generated in recent weeks. He will certainly need to reassess his training methods and techniques and employ a boxing coach that he is able to listen to and respect in order to establish a similar relationship to that of Groves and Mcguigan, moving forward.