Thursday, June 13, 2024  |

News

George Groves: Can The Saint get it right this time?

George Groves (right) on the attack against Martin Murray. Photo: Paul Currie
Fighters Network
24
May

George Groves knows what makes him successful in the ring. The athletic Englishman is a big and rangy super middleweight with plenty of speed and power, but despite his physical qualities, and formidable weaponry, the 29-year-old boxer-puncher still hasn’t landed the big one.

Groves, who hails from London, suffered two stoppage defeats to countryman Carl Froch in massively-hyped IBF title showdowns in 2013 and 2014. He then ventured to Las Vegas in 2015 for a third-time lucky attempt against then-WBC belt holder Badou Jack, only to fall agonizingly short by split decision.

It was pressure, pressure, pressure for the fighter known as “The Saint” and big changes were required. Now settled with new trainer Shane McGuigan, the erudite Groves has regained his physical form ahead of Saturday’s WBA title clash against Fedor Chudinov, but what may get him over the line at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, England, is a complete change of attitude.

“The closer it gets, the less I’m treating this as a world title fight,” revealed Groves in an interview with RingTV.com. “Last year, I took the same approach. Everyone billed the Martin Murray fight as 50-50 or make-or-break. It didn’t have a world title on the line but it had that same sort of pressure. I rode right into it and that performance (UD12) gave me a lot confidence coming into this one.



“(Hypothetically speaking) if I was to go through the rankings and ask myself, ‘Who do I need to fight to position myself for a world title fight?’ then Chudinov would have been one of the guys on the list. He’s not a nightmare to box, in terms of making me look bad, and he’s not awkward or dirty. He’s a standup boxer of a good level but he’s someone who I would just fight for the sake of fighting.”

That may sound a little cocky, and Groves always has been, but there’s also an element of realism when you look at his competition. Froch, who retired following his second victory over Groves, is one of the most decorated 168-pound fighters in the division’s history. Jack, criminally underrated in most quarters, is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Groves was highly competitive in all three fights and also holds a decision victory over reigning IBF titleholder James DeGale.

Chudinov, who is rated No. 8 by THE RING at super middleweight, is no easy touch but simply does not look to be on that level.

“In boxing, you hear the term ‘Eastern-European-style’ all the time and, being Russian, he does fall into that category,” Groves said. “He uses his feet well, as we seen against Frank Buglioni (UD12) but, again, Buglioni gave him a chance to use his feet because he fought predominantly off the backfoot. He also adjusts distance well and pulls back with his head. People say Chudinov doesn’t move his head, but he does. He doesn’t move his head laterally but he moves it forward and back.

“There are also a few things that I don’t know about him. I don’t know how tough he is. I don’t know how good his endurance is. I don’t know how good his punch resistance is. He’s only had 15 fights, so he hasn’t fought many people. I’m hoping that this is an advantage for me and I’m hoping that he hasn’t faced anyone as good as me. But he is certainly not to be underestimated because we don’t know everything.”

Groves, who is rated No. 4 by THE RING at 168 pounds, has a job to do regardless. He’s now in his seventh year as a professional and there are no secrets about what he brings to the table. He has 18 stoppages in 25 wins and his power was never more evident than when he floored Froch with a single right hand to the chin in the first round of their first fight.

The home fighter is also owner of arguably the best stick in the division.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who can hurt people with the jab like I can,” stated Groves when asked what attribute will trouble Chudinov most. “I don’t think there’s anyone else (at 168 pounds) who can control distance and tempo with just the lead hand. Anyone who’s facing me knows they must take the jab away. We seen it last year with Martin Murray, who’s got a wealth of experience. He was confident of being able to defuse the jab but he couldn’t deal with it.

“For me, I just need to keep adjusting distance and look to set him up. Once I get the jab working, then we’ll know what other shots are open for me. We go through everything in the gym and I’ve got great punch variety. I can hit people with the right hand around the side, up the middle, over the top, head and body. We’ll see what’s there once I get the lead hand working.”

Having interviewed Groves on several occasions, this was unequivocally the most calm and relaxed version of him I’ve ever encountered. In the buildup to previous fights, it was almost as if he felt obligated to play a huge part in the promotion and drive the marketing machine. There’s a reason why he and Froch sold 80,000 tickets at Wembley Stadium for their rematch.

For this fight, however, simplicity appears to be the key.

“Why should I put more pressure on myself because there’s a world title on the line?” asked Groves with the confidence of a man who has been there before. “The world title is vacant and even though he’s a former (WBA regular) champion, I’ve already boxed and beaten former champions in my career.

“I just think that Chudinov has it all to do. He doesn’t have the experience that I have and he hasn’t boxed in front of the crowds that I have. Buglioni fans make a lot of noise, but there might have been 3000 people there. He’s boxed in Germany in front of big crowds but nobody makes any noise in Germany. This is going to be a football stadium with 25,000 plus. I get my fair share of stick, wherever I go, but I’m hoping I get a bit of support up in Sheffield. I’ve got a lot of fans traveling and hopefully it’ll be a rip-roaring atmosphere.”

The consensus is that this is Groves’ final chance to come good and he’s a 3-1 favorite to do so. A loss to Chudinov would be catastrophic and, deep down, he knows it. Last year, Groves and his wife, Sophie, celebrated the arrival of their first child and the priorities have now completely changed.

“I’m 29 now and I can’t just think, it’s gonna come, it’s gonna click, it’s gonna happen,” acknowledged Groves who will turn 30 years old next March. “I’m ruthless now, no more messing about. You want to provide as much for your family as possible and you want your kids to have the best possible life. I just want to spend as much time around my son as I can. I want to make him proud and provide as a dad.

“I don’t want to speak out of turn but I need to speak with the confidence that I have in my belly. When I win, and win well, on Saturday and I say, ‘Look at my belt, I’m number one’, I don’t think people can argue with me. Because I don’t have a belt right now, people are saying ‘Hello mate, you’ve been beat so many times’ but looking at the current crop, why on earth would anyone really want to argue with me when I say I’m the best?”

Groves has changed but his fighter’s pride remains undimmed.

 

 

 

Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel.  Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

Struggling to locate a copy of THE RING Magazine? Try here or…

SUBSCRIBE

You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of THE RING Magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: Canelo vs. Chavez Jr. – Mano A Mano.

SIGN UP TO GET RING NEWS ALERTS