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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Groves-Smith, Anthony Joshua, #MayPac2)

George Groves (right) and Callum Smith. Photo courtesy of the World Boxing Super Series
28
Sep

WBSS SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT FINAL

Hi Doug,

Not written in for a while but wanted to give my thoughts on George Groves-Callum Smith this weekend. The bookies make Groves a very marginal favourite and so did I until Sunday morning, on my way back home from Wembley, when I decided he was actually the heavy favourite. This came from comparing Joshua-Povetkin to Froch-Groves 2.

In both cases the Rob McCracken man was on the wrong end of the flashier shots in the early part of the fight but used body work to set up a lights-out finish in the middle rounds. I used to question Groves’ chin but if Povetkin can be taken out in the same way, I am now finding that harsh. Combine that with Groves’ war with Chudinov at Bramall Lane and actually Groves doesn’t seem too chinny at all, just somebody capable of being KO’d by one of the best modern UK fighters with a strong game plan. No shame in that, particularly when his only other loss is a close decision to one of the most underrated boxers out there in Badou Jack.



Back to Groves-Smith, I now view Groves as the better boxer (that jab is still superb), proven to at least be able to compete at the world/elite level and not as chinny as I once thought him to be. Smith, on the other hand, was a promising prospect whose career seems to have stalled a little. We have no tangible proof of how good he is/isn’t really.

What do you think? Is my reasoning sound or do you think this one is closer than I imagine? All the best. – Laurence (Nottingham)

I believe that Groves should be considered the solid favorite for the same reason I considered Carl Froch to be the favorite against “St. George” (in both fights): he’s the far more battle tested of the two super middleweight standouts.

However, even though that’s my belief and Groves is my pick to win the showdown for the World Boxing Super Series Muhammad Ali trophy and the vacant Ring magazine 168-pound title, I view today’s matchup as a 50-50 toss-up.

Why is that? Because one never knows when “battle tested” can become “battle worn” during the course of a fighter’s career. Groves is only 30 (just

Groves defeated Fedor Chudinov for the WBA 168-pound title. Photo / @SkySportsBoxing

two years older than Smith), but it seems like he’s been around forever (and come to think of it, he has been in the pro game for 10 years, which is considerable). It’s not just the length of time, it’s the tough fights he’s been in. The back-to-back knockouts to Froch (which probably took more of a psychological toll than physical), the hard 12 rounds with Jack, the broken jaw suffered against Fedor Chudinov, and, of course, the dislocated shoulder against Chris Eubank Jr.

Groves has been through the ringer, while Smith is a comparatively fresh 28, and the Liverpudlian is also huge. I have no idea how a 6-foot-3 (maybe 6-foot-4) man with Smith’s frame makes 168 pounds. He’s got the bone structure of a light heavyweight.  

However, while Groves has been taken to hell a few times, he’s always found his way back. He’s overcome a lot of adversity to get to the position he’s in now and that speaks to his character. I’m not saying Smith doesn’t have strong character, but he hasn’t proven his mettle and resolve as Groves has. I favor Groves by decision in a very good fight.

I agree that Groves is the “better boxer” and by that I mean he’s the more experienced and the craftier of the two. He’s thinking all the time, looking to set traps. Smith, however, is a very solid technician, with a good jab and varied offense. I think he mixes punches to the body and head well. We might be in for a real treat today.


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GROVES BY KNOCKOUT

Hey Doug, there’s a lot of notable fighters in action this weekend, but most of them are in fights they’re supposed to win, so I wanna focus on the best matchup in my opinion: Groves vs Smith.

In the aftermath of the Eubank-Groves fight, I said “Groves was made to look quite good by Eubank,” to which you said “I think Groves is quite good.” You were quite right to say that, I think I was just surprised to see Eubank missing so wildly at points in that fight–but of course, a lot of that had to do with Groves bobbing and weaving on the ropes, as well as his fundamental in-and-out footwork.

As for Smith, he’s a very solid if somewhat rote, standup fighter. His jab and his power have impressed me in previous fights but I’ve gotta say, I was quite surprised he couldn’t get a kickboxer out of there, (albeit a legendary one) and that he actually ate some overhand rights from the guy. I’ve gotta think that Groves being the consummate professional boxer he is would’ve made it look a lot more clear that this guy was from another sport if he had been in the ring with him. He would’ve used that in-and-out footwork to manipulate distance, set traps, and would’ve really separated himself I think.

For this reason. I’m picking Groves to beat Smith in the final. Smith has formidable size and power, as well as a long accurate jab, but I think he’s just a little too stiff and mechanical for Groves. At his best, Groves is a very crafty counter puncher who can also punch, and he’s also got a damn good jab too as he demonstrated against Eubank. I think he’ll use his footwork to overcome the reach disadvantage, and out-jab the jabber, kind of like how Mike Tyson used to do. I’m going to go out on a limb too and say he scores a stoppage over Smith; he’s gonna hurt him with some hard and accurate shots.

Winning this tournament would be a nice feather in the cap of Groves, who has never seemed to quite get his due (including from me) despite his talent and underrated career as a whole. – Jack E.

It would be satisfying to see Groves, who has been overlooked ever since the rematch loss to Froch, win the WBSS tournament. If he does, as a fan pointed out to me via Twitter, he will have “one-upped” his domestic rivals (Froch and James DeGale) by winning The Ring super middleweight championship. Froch failed to do so vs. Andre Ward, and DeGale was denied the coveted magazine title when he was held to a draw by Jack.

However, I would be just as pleased to see Smith win today. He seems like good dude, and I know that he wants to face the best of his division (as does Groves).

Smith lands a right shot on Skoglund during the WBSS super middleweight quarterfinal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Anyway, I can’t fault your reasoning for picking Groves to win by stoppage. Smith’s offense is a bit repetitive even though his punch-selection is nice, and although he clearly beat two unbeaten (but unrated) opponents on his way to the WBSS final, those guys (Erik Skoglund and Nieky Holzken) were able to “put hands on him.” I don’t blame you for wondering what happens if/when Groves lands his best right hand flush on Smith’s chops.

But even though I agree that Groves would have taken Holzken to school, I must note that it might be a mistake to play the performance-vs.-a-common-opponent comparison game in boxing. Maybe Holzekn and Skoglund can take a better a shot than Groves. Maybe Smith can take Groves’ best shot as well as he took their hardest power punches.

I agree that Groves is a brilliant boxer, who is very adept at setting traps, but those traps probably work best when he’s in with a forward-marching foe. What if Smith opts not to do that? And how will Groves hold out if Smith sets a torrid pace with a high-punch output while operating from the outside?

Things could get interesting, no?

Smith has formidable size and power, as well as a long accurate jab, but I think he’s just a little too stiff and mechanical for Groves. Smith is a bit “straight-up” and methodical, but he’s a solid technician with a good jab, and he mixes punches to the body and head well.

At his best, Groves is a very crafty counter puncher who can also punch, and he’s also got a damn good jab too as he demonstrated against Eubank. I agree 100%, however, it should be noted that Eubank didn’t jab much back at Groves (especially over the second half of the fight). I imagine Smith will.

 

ANTHONY JOSHUA

Hi Dougie,

Hope all is well with you & family. What did you think of the Joshua/Povetkin fight? I thought it was much better than AJ’s last couple of fights (One DANCE with Parker). It does show me one thing though. AJ is very vulnerable in the first 5 or 6 rounds. This has been true in his fights with Klitschko, Whyte and Povetkin. I can see Ortiz taking him out early (don’t think anyone but Wilder could have taken the beating Ortiz gave him and come back). Also, Wilder would likely take AJ out early. Miller could win but probably in later rounds – nobody has whiskers like Miller – I have seen him take good shots from big men and not even blink!!!!! I think he is highly underrated. Anyway, it will be interesting to see who he fights in April. My first guess is Whyte. Second guess is Miller. Hearn doesn’t want any part of Wilder.

Also, from now till April, 7 months, is a long time to take off without fighting! Do you still think Wilder will beat Fury? What about these potential match ups:

  1.  Wilder vs Fury.
  2.  Ortiz vs Joshua.
  3.  Miller vs Joshua.
  4.  Wilder vs Joshua.
  5.  Fury vs Joshua.

Keep up the good work. – Mike

Seven months between fights is a long time for up-and-comers but Joshua is an established unified champ who has come into his own, and his recent bouts have been tough. His body (and brain) could probably use a few months off after the rough-and-tumble opening rounds against Povetkin before engaging in another hard fight camp. AJ appears dedicated to training and someone who lives clean, so I don’t expect ring rust to be a factor in his next bout.

I do still favor Wilder over Fury, but I think the lineal champ is a live dog given his style, size and ring smarts. I just think Fury needed a couple more tune-up bouts before taking on one of the titleholders.

  1. Wilder
  2. Joshua
  3. Joshua
  4. Toss-up, but I’m sticking with AJ
  5. Another toss-up if Fury is able to regain his top form (for instance, if he beats Wilder and then has another bout before facing AJ), but again, I’ll stick with the 2012 Olympic gold medalist.

What did you think of the Joshua/Povetkin fight? I thought it was an intense and competitive heavyweight title bout that featured a sudden and entertaining finish.

I thought it was much better than AJ’s last couple of fights (One DANCE with Parker). Me too.

AJ is very vulnerable in the first 5 or 6 rounds. This has been true in his fights with Klitschko, Whyte and Povetkin. Yeah, but he kept his composure through the rough spots in each of the those fights, resumed his game plan and then came on strong to stop his opponent in each of the fights you mentioned.

I can see Ortiz taking him out early (don’t think anyone but Wilder could have taken the beating Ortiz gave him and come back). I think Joshua deals with being hurt a little better than Wilder does. And I doubt the plodding version of Ortiz that was content to merely keep Wilder backpedaling for the first four rounds of their bout would spark AJ early, but you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. I think Ortiz is a little overrated.

Also, Wilder would likely take AJ out early. Now that’s something I can envision, but I think Wilder is just as vulnerable early as Joshua is.

Miller could win but probably in later rounds – nobody has whiskers like Miller – I have seen him take good shots from big men and not even blink!!!!! Big Baby’s shown very solid whiskers so far, but who has he fought? Has he faced any world-class punchers? I don’t think so. Has he faced any legit top-10 contenders? I don’t think so.

I think he is highly underrated. I don’t think he’s underrated or overrated. I think he’s merely unproven at the present time.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see who (AJ) fights in April. My first guess is Whyte. Second guess is Miller. Hearn doesn’t want any part of Wilder. I don’t agree with your take on Hearn 100%, but it’s probably true that he’s not in any rush to pit his cash cow vs. the biggest puncher in the division. And we probably will see Joshua-Whyte II next April.

 

AMERICAN PROPS FOR AJ

Hey Doug,

“There’s only one, Anthony Joshua!”

  • Does singing this jingle make me a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court?

Seriously, I saw AJ grow as a championship level fighter (vs. Povetkin). One could argue that he was at once struggling and assessing his opponent in the first few rounds. Conversely, one cannot argue his pedigree and spot atop the HW division. Truly impressive stoppage.

Later brutha. – Regi Woodard

I agree with your take on Joshua. Does he have a granite chin, like prime Ray Mercer or Oliver McCall? Nope, but he’s got size, athleticism, power and ring

IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Photo by Lawrence Lustig

IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Photo by Lawrence Lustig

smarts like prime Wladdy Klitschko and Lennox Lewis. And those two hall of famers were not known for the strength of their chins. (In fact, Joshua might be able to catch just a little better than both.) But they evolved their styles after KO losses and became dominant champs for long stretches. AJ is evolving his style (from a methodical stalking destroyer to patient and versatile boxer-puncher) without having to comeback from a loss. And he’s got a killer instinct and finishing technique that might rival Lewis at his best.

Anyway, if Joshua continues to learn and develop with each fight my guess is that other Yankees will join you in King Arthur’s court.

 

MAY VS. PAC 2

Dougie,

This email is going to be critical of you so I hope it makes the mail bag. I have an issue with your take on Mayweather vs Pacquiao 2. I’ll start by saying that I plan on watching it key word being watch and not pay because I will stream it and would not pay for that again. But your hate for these 2 in my opinion is very unprofessional. First of all these 2 gave a lot of themselves in the ring (Pacquiao slightly more so with his all action style) and yet half the time you are talking down about them. I get it I am sure the fans can be annoying but o well there are a legion of fans for every athlete that can be unreasonable but no need to take it out on the fighters.  Sure there fight is not going to be exciting but there are still people myself included that will still watch and intrigued by them yet it looks bad on the sport when a respected write of the sport such as yourself just craps on them. That’s def a problem in our sport when someone like yourself refuses to talk about two of the most polarizing figures this sport has ever seen because of some grudge that he has with either the fighter or the fans of the fighter. I can only imagine how bad a writer would look of a sport like basketball if he didn’t want to cover Lebron James because of his fans or random grudge. This email isn’t to start some argument or to bash you because that’s just plain stupid and I don’t want to stoop as low as some of the ridiculous fans out there. I say this because I wish you would give an opinon of these 2 fighters without having to say some smart remark about them or their careers. And yes I am a huge Pacquiao fan but I am not saying this because of that because as much as I like him I actually do not like Mayweather at all and will never root for him but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to hear what you have to say about him without injecting some type of insult at him. I’ll close with again saying I am writing this because I respect the heck out of you and love your mail bags I just wish it would do without all the insults to two of greats. Either way you will still have me as an avid follower and I plan to not stop regardless of how you feel about them but figured I’d give you my 2 cents. Have a good one! – Julio

Sorry, my disinterest of the possible Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch bugs you, Julio. If it makes you feel any better, I think both boxers are among the best of their generation, arguably Nos. 1 and 2 (I’ll let their fans argue about who’s No. 1) and are bona-fide future first-ballot hall of famers. I’m sure I’ll have lots of nice things to say about both that will make their diehard fans feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they are inducted into the IBHOF, but, at the present time, I’m totally burnt out on both. It’s really nothing personal but I’ve been sick of both boxers for at least the last six or seven years.

There’s no point in pretending to be interested in them. The truth is that I haven’t cared about Mayweather or Pacquiao fight that’s taken place beyond 2012. That’s just my feeling/opinion. This is my weekly column, so it’s an appropriate place for me to express my opinions. I’ve been more of an editor/columnist than a daily reporter/beat writer since leaving MaxBoxing for The Ring almost 10 years ago. Nobody should expect me to play that “impartial”/“no-opinion” role of traditional journalists at this juncture of my career.  

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Besides, you got me all wrong in regard to #MayPac2. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I hope the fight is made and that I want the veterans to take it easy on themselves. I really want that to happen. I think they’ve earned the right to do what they want (just like I’ve earned the right to say and write what I want). I hope they remain healthy and make a butt-load of money off their dedicated fans that are (unlike you) willing to pay to see them share the ring once again.

You see, I’m not interested in dissing the fighters at all. If they do it again, the only folks I’ll bother to tease or ridicule during the build-up to the event will be the fans and media that act like Floyd and Manny are two badasses in their prime or those that get upset at the rest of the world for not being all hot and bothered over the rematch.  

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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