George Groves sees no trouble ahead in Badou Jack
British super middleweight George Groves was forced to reset his world-title ambitions on the back of two stoppage defeats to white-hot rival Carl Froch and the road back has recently enjoyed a new twist.
After becoming mandatory challenger for the WBC super middleweight belt, Groves targeted American titleholder Anthony Dirrell. All was going well until Badou Jack, an untested and undistinguished Swede who fights out of Las Vegas, was selected by the Dirrell camp for a voluntary defense.
Groves, who is partial to placing a bet, sensed that best laid plans were about to change.
“We were on the way to the venue and I decided to check the odds on Badou Jack. He was 9/1 against for a points win and I just had a feeling about it,” said Groves, who won ┬ú1000 (approximately $1500) by backing the underdog.
“I’d seen some footage of Jack and knew he was a tidy boxer with height and reach over Anthony Dirrell. He also trains out of the Mayweather Gym and the only blemish on his record was a one-round blast out (by Derek Edwards) which can happen to anyone.
Groves continued, “You normally assume that a voluntary title defense is going to go the champion’s way, because he handpicks the opponent and keeps things in-house, but Dirrell took his eye off the ball completely.”
Following an uninspired and listless beginning, Dirrell lost the majority of the closing rounds as well as the championship he had won from Sakio Bika last August.
“He was dreadful,” said Groves, who is rated No. 3 by THE RING at 168 pounds. “Fair play to Jack because he got his opportunity, took it, and now he wants to fight me without delay. There’s nothing worse than chasing someone and waiting around.
“I don’t want, or need, a tune-up and I’m looking forward to some quality sparring in a hard training camp. We’re ready to get down to business.”
Not only is Jack willing but the governing body in question has already issued documentation calling for the bout to take place, which is music to the 27-year-old Groves’ ears.
He said, “The WBC issued a letter instructing us to begin negotiations and I think we have until May 22 to reach an agreement. There’s a 90-day deadline from that date, so we’re looking at the end of August, but the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.
“Jack is tall with a long reach and a good defense but I don’t think he punches hard and I don’t think he looks particularly strong. He does some things well but nothing exceptional and I won’t need to make any big changes in order to beat him.
“As always I’ll be looking to find the target off the jab and when it starts landing I’ll go to combinations. Once they start landing I’ll begin putting real force into the shots and look to inflict damage. Jack seems like a nice guy but, ultimately, I’ll be too strong and powerful for him.”
The tug of war to secure a location for Jack versus Groves could be as interesting as the fight itself. Jack is an unknown quantity in the U.S. whereas the challenger is an extremely popular attraction in his home city of London, England.
“Badou Jack has no value at the moment,” said Groves after a short pause. “There aren’t many Swedish-born Gambian fellas walking around Las Vegas waiting for him to box, however he has real backing with Floyd Mayweather in his corner.
“We could see the fight happen in the States and I have no problem traveling. You would imagine that it would be in Las Vegas and not some town in the middle of nowhere because Al Haymon, with Premier Boxing Champions, is trying to create big business for his brand.
“Still, economically, I sell enough tickets in London to make this fight a real success. My team is in a good position to make a very strong bid and we’ll see how we go.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing