Donovan George (left) is gradually dropping down from super middleweight to middleweight, where he believes he has a better chance at winning a world title. His opponent tonight, David Lopez (right), made the same decision years ago.
Donovan George had to make a choice after his 12th-round stoppage loss to Adonis Stevenson last October.
He could make the necessary changes to be able to contend for a world title or keep everything the same and continue to toil on the fringes of the super middleweight division.
If winning a world title wasn’t important to him, he would have continued on the path he has been on for the past few years – one that earned him the reputation of a serviceable “gatekeeper,” someone dangerous enough to knockout limited sluggers like Dionisio Miranda and young prospects like Cornelius White but not good enough to beat rising super middleweight contenders Edwin Rodriguez and Stevenson. That path did not lead to a world title.
George still wants to be a champion so he made some changes, beginning with the decision to eventually drop down to the middleweight division. George (24-3-1, 21 knockouts) weighed 164¾ pounds for an opening-round blowout of journeyman James Cook in his first bout after his spirited effort against Stevenson.
He weighed 163 pounds for tonight’s ESPN2-televised fight against former contender and 154-pound title challenger David Lopez.
“The Stevenson fight was the eye-opener for me,” George told RingTV.com last week. “I was really hurt in fifth round of that fight. My ribs were broken. It was a critically placed punch he landed and I couldn’t breathe. My corner did a good job keeping me afloat beyond that round and into the 12th round, but in the end, I just wasn’t strong enough.
“After that fight I decided to go ahead and made the sacrifice it takes to get down to middleweight.”
Obviously, after yesterday’s weighin, it’s clear that George is still working toward his 160-pound goal, but the changes he wants to make go beyond dropping weight.
George is also changing his approach to boxing. In the past, he carried a somewhat reckless “take-no-prisoners” mentality in the ring. His heavy hands and aggressive style earned him the nickname “Da Bomb” and a strong fan following in his native Chicago, where the Lopez fight will take place, but it also cost him in major fights.
At one time, George was so headstrong that he entered his ESPN2-televised fight against Francisco Sierra in June of 2010 with a broken nose (from a sparring session with Gennady Golovkin). He suffered a bloody, punishing seventh-round technical decision loss – the first of his career – for his arrogance.
He was outboxed by a surprisingly mobile Rodriguez in an HBO-televised 10 rounder last March. And against Stevenson, he made the terrible mistake of trying to punch with a bigger man and bigger puncher.
George says he’s finally taking in the lessons of each loss.
“I learned the hard way against Sierra that you don’t go into a fight when you’re not 100 percent,” George said. “He wasn’t a world beater but he was the better man that night because I entered the fight hurt. I was cocky. My nose was already badly hurt from sparring in Big Bear (Calif.), and of course, things got worse during the fight.”
George says the Rodriguez bout, which was a hardcore matchup most fans thought was going to be a war, taught him that he needed to be more mentally prepared going into a fight.
“We expected a completely different fight,” he admitted. “We anticipated one type of fight, a trench warfare kind of fight, and instead Rodriguez boxed me. He moved. You got to have a plan, A, B, and C at the highest level of this sport.”
George carried his new outlook to the legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit to prepare for Lopez. There, he got into top fighting shape by sparring with Stevenson while the advice of his former foe’s coach, Javon “Sugar” Hill, the nephew of late great trainer Emanuel Steward, helped him improve his technique.
“The sparring with Stevenson was excellent work because we have mutual respect for each other,” George said. “I got to know Sugar Hill while sparring with Andy Lee in his camp for (Julio Cesar) Chavez. He’s very sharp. A lot of Steward rubbed off on Sugar. We worked on the technical side of my game. Sugar helped a lot with my footwork. I think I’m becoming a more complete fighter.”
George still wants to live up to his nickname against Lopez and knockout the Mexican veteran, but he says he’ll be prepared to box the durable 35-year-old southpaw if need be.
“I know he’s gonna bring it,” he said. “He’s a tall, lanky boxer-puncher who comes forward. He’s got 60 fights, so he won’t fall apart. I know he’s going to be tough. I hope to use my size and strength against him and hopefully wear him down. I want there to be fireworks, but if I can’t take him out, my dad and Sugar Hill made sure to give me other game plans to put into play against him.”
Whether he wins by KO or decision, George says he wants to continue improving. Despite going on his ninth year as a pro, the 28-year-old believes he has a lot to learn.
“I look at it like school,” he said. “I graduated high school when I stepped up to start fighting contenders. Now I’m in college. I want to graduate and one day get my master’s degree.”
The master’s, of course, is a world title, which he says will be of the 160-pound variety.
“My losses have been against tough guys but I was always the smaller guy,” George said. “I was not physically as strong as them. At 160, I’m going to be the monster. I have a new outlook and I have a whole new career opportunity.”