By Paul Mason
Groves Derails The Eubank Express
George Groves posted a dominant victory at the Manchester Arena on Saturday to retain his WBA (Super) belt, and gain the IBO strap, by pounding out a deserved and unanimous points victory over Chris Eubank Junior. It was a great spectacle, and right from Eubank’s entrance to the strains of Doctor Dre and Snoop Doggs’ still DRE, and Groves’ Rolling Stones Paint It Black/ Spitfire by The Prodigy hybrid, the crowd were in an expectant frenzy. The fight didn’t disappoint.
Eubank started a warm, odds-on favourite, but after five or six keenly contested rounds, Groves’ size and experience took over the fight. Eubank was ragged on the whole, and at times missed his shots wildly in a desperate attempt to save his skin. Groves used his size to his advantage, and even when Eubank trapped him on the ropes during the contest, Groves rarely looked in serious trouble, and would fire spiteful counter shots of his own. Again, maybe part of his downfall, there was no cohesion and advice at all in the Eubank corner. He surely now has to consider telling his father to keep out of the corner on fight night, as he is completely no use in this capacity. If Junior was to hire any other trainer than Ronnie Davies, they would not stand for being a sideshow in the corner while Senior stays relevant posturing and posing between rounds. This surely can’t be a help for any boxer. I feel for Junior to truly be a World level operator, he needs a corner to match, and I would urge him to find a trainer that can elevate him to where he feels he belongs.
Groves now advances to the World Boxing Super Series Final on June 2, where he will face the winner of this Saturdays other semi-final between Liverpool’s Callum Smith and Germany’s former Light Heavyweight World Champion, Juergen Braehmer. This is all subject to Groves’ shoulder healing in time, as he suffered a dislocation in the final round of the Eubank bout. If he cannot be fit in time, it is likely that Eubank Junior will be the man to take his place in the showpiece.
Groves proved his class on Saturday night, and maybe he won’t be so underestimated again by the bookmakers and fans alike. He is now an established World Champion, and, even though he has three defeats on the slate, he was more than competitive in each fight he lost. He was controversially stopped by Carl Froch in the same Manchester Arena, and neck and neck with Froch in the rematch at Wembley Stadium before being spectacularly knocked out. Had it not been for a nightmare first round knockdown in a challenge for the WBC Title against Badou Jack in Las Vegas in September 2014, then Groves may have already been a World Champion before his coronation night at Bramhall Lane, Sheffield against Fedor Chudinov. I always felt that Groves would have too much pedigree, size and power for Eubank Junior on the night, and ultimately this told in the end.
Eubank was left to call out the big names once again in the hope of World honours. His big problem now is again his size. Drop back down to Middleweight, his natural weight class, and his options are severely limited. Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez meet in May in a rematch to decide the WBC, WBA and IBF belts, while WBO holder, Billy Joe Saunders’ stock has risen considerably after a near flawless victory over David Lemieux in Canada last December. This means that he is now on the heels of “GGG” and Canelo, and would only really entertain a Eubank rematch for the lion’s share of the money on offer. This leaves Eubank to stay at Super Middle and concede considerable weight on fight night. He has wasted no time in calling out James DeGale in the post-fight interview, however DeGale will be campaigning to get Caleb Truax to agree to a rematch for the IBF Title that he shipped in December. The other Champions are David Benavidez (WBC) and Gilberto Ramirez (WBO), both based across the Atlantic, so it’s likely that Eubank will have to play a waiting game.
Super Series Shows Are A Breath Of Fresh Air
The atmosphere was electric in Manchester inside and outside the venue, and a big thumbs up to the concept and the shows put together during the Super Series. The shows feel different from the usual Frank Warren or Matchroom offerings. People have had nothing but good things to say about the tournament. I was inside the arena from around 7:30pm, and I especially liked the way the undercard and main event flowed. Fights began nearly as soon as the previous ones had ended, and there were no major delays. The main event starting at just after 10pm was a major plus, and everyone seemed to be in their seats from the ring walks onwards. The City was buzzing from early afternoon, and everyone seemed in good spirits. I believe the Manchester Arena is the best arena for boxing in the country, and it proved it once again.
The Super Series is also an example to the governing bodies on how to unify Championships, and how to get good fighters in the ring with one another, especially in the case of the Cruiserweight edition. It has taken less than a year to conclude both weight classes’ tournaments, and by the final of the Cruiserweight competition in May, we will have an undisputed Champion, and that is only a good thing for the sport.
Hopefully this will pave the way for other weight classes to be involved next time, and producing more unification matches as a result. It’s been a rousing success on the whole.
Lowe Falls Short In British Title Challenge
Ryan Walsh kept his British Featherweight Title with a draw against Morecambe’s Isaac Lowe on the undercard. In an engaging contest, both men had their successes, but ultimately the fight ended in a stalemate. A three way split of the judges suggests this was a fair result. It remains to be seen if there will be a rematch. Walsh already holds the Lonsdale Belt outright, so doesn’t really need to go over old ground if he doesn’t want to. A former Commonwealth Champion at Featherweight, Lowe now has three draws on his record, and will be keen to get another crack at the British Title as soon as possible.
Walsh will most probably look to once again challenge for European honours, after a failed challenge for Dennis Ceylan’s belt in Denmark in October 2016. The current Champion is Spain’s Marc Vidal, who holds a modest 11-1-4 record, and picked up the belt with a split decision win over Sergio Blanco in July last year.
Langford Retains Against Arnfield
Until a shuddering first career defeat via stoppage against tough Georgian, and now incarcerated Avtandil Khurtsidze in April last year, Tommy Langford was in line for a crack at Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO Middleweight Title.
He is now on a mission to rebuild towards World glory following that night at the Leicester Arena. After a low key comeback win in October 2017 in Leeds, Langford defended his British Middleweight Title in a battle of technicians against Blackpool’s Jack Arnfield. Langford controlled most of the action to earn a deserved unanimous decision.
I think Langford should continue at domestic/European level for the time being, rather than rush, and run into another Khurtsidze type fighter at fringe World level. Liam Cameron is the current Commonwealth Champion, and Alessandro Goddi and Kamil Szeremeta meet in Italy for the vacant European Title this Friday night. Both are winnable and logical fights for Langford to continue his professional education.