Groves: The Unfancied Favourite

By jvance618 - 11/20/2013 - Comments

groves5343By Jvance: A lot has been said about George Groves’ chances in the all British clash against the current IBF and WBA (regular) super-middleweight champion, Carl Froch. At the outset, Sky Sport’s pundit Glenn McCrory said “no way” to the thought of Groves coming out victorious on November 23rd, with other boxing minds claiming the fight has come too early for the Hammersmith fighter.

With Groves being made mandatory challenger for Froch’s IBF strap and Froch unwilling to give up his belt, the lucrative bout between the two mutually promoted fighters was easily made, much to the delight of the British public. As the fight draws closer there will be more and more superficial analysis of Groves’ lack of experience in contrast to Froch’s run of world title bouts. However, if the fight is broken down tactically and the credentials of the opponents analysed, Groves not only becomes a more than credible opponent, but indeed a probable victor.

Both fighters are coming off impressive victories. Carl Froch won a unanimous points decision in his highly anticipated rematch against his former conqueror Mikkel Kessler, outworking the Dane and establishing his jab early on in the contest. On the same night, George Groves stopped the Uruguayan Noe Gonzalez Alcoba. Whilst there was a considerable difference in the quality of opponents, the respective performances highlighted the technical flaws in Froch’s style as well as the accomplished nature of Groves’ movement and his impressive attacking repertoire.

What was noticeable in Groves’ performance was his jab. He not only used it to find his range but the velocity and power he displayed made this most important of shots an attacking weapon that broke down his tough opponent from the outset. Froch is also regarded as having a very useful jab, and the angle of which it is thrown is similar to Groves’; however the extra speed in which Groves shoots his left, coupled with his natural head movement means he would likely win the battle of the jabs. George Groves’ variety of attack is demonstrated by how often he feints the lead hand and upper-body to not only draw leads from his opponent, but as a method of distance control. Groves will employ this often neglected tactic, particularly in the early rounds and it may prove to keep his opponent at range and bring him on to the end of some sharp counters, frustrating the ‘Cobra’ as he racks up the early rounds.

Whilst Carl Froch is undoubtedly one of Britain’s best, and his impressive string of highly ranked opponents cannot be easily disregarded, his stylistic peculiarities could prove to be his downfall come fight night. The ‘Cobra’ is particularly rigid in his movement. As Froch throws a right hand his right leg often follows, meaning he gets caught square and leaves himself in a somewhat indefensible position to a counter right hand and short left hook. Furthermore, given Groves’ accomplished footwork he will be able to pivot on his lead leg and get out of range sideways. Froch often loads up on his combinations, something he admitted after he fought the the division’s best, Andre Ward, in the final of the Super 6 Tournament. If George Groves does get under the skin of his opponent then Froch’s trainer, Rob McCracken, may find it difficult to curtail Froch’s aggression and the short sharp combinations that McCracken demands of his fighter may go out the window.

In Froch’s victory over Kessler he displayed a remarkable level of fitness, throwing just short of 1000 punches in the twelve rounds. This punch output is key to Froch breaking down his opponents. However against a fighter who slips punches, moves in and out of range very well and lands heavy counters, the ‘Cobra’ will be reluctant, and perhaps unable, to reach the level of work rate shown in his last fight.

Tactical analysis of this kind will fall on the shoulders’ of the trainers, and in both corners stand highly credible men. Whilst George Groves has recently split from his long-term trainer (Adam Booth) he has employed a very able replacement in Paddy Fitzpatrick, who has not only worked with Groves and Booth before but talks with the same confidence and reassuring composure of his former trainer. Furthermore, the game plan that Groves will employ would have been discussed at length with Adam Booth, who oversaw Groves’ most impressive victory to date, against the then British Champion and Olympic Gold medalist, James Degale. In that fight Groves displayed an unyielding discipline in sticking to an impressive game plan. He worked behind his jab and kept out of range of the awkward Degale. This fight showed Groves had the ability to work out a fighter who has little rhythm to his work, who throws shots from awkward angles and whose style makes it difficult to identify triggers to work off; all characteristics associated with Carl Froch. The victory also showed that Groves does not shrink under the spotlight of a packed out arena and a box office card, something that will stand him in good stead when he finally meets the ‘Cobra’. Furthermore, the various promotional events and pre-fight press conferences will showcase the development of Groves’ mentality and how he has learnt from the confrontational yet measured approach to a big fight build-up of his stable mate David Haye and his former trainer Adam Booth.

Whilst it is clear that Groves’ level of ability is world class, it is yet to be proven at that level. He has looked vulnerable in past performances. In his 2010 clash against Kenny Anderson he was too eager to exchange and get involved in a brawl, giving his opponent the chance to land big shots that he would not have had if he had stuck to his boxing ability. Anderson capitalized and dropped Groves early on, raising questions about the Londoner’s punch resistance. However he showed grit and determination to get off the floor and eventually stopped Anderson in the sixth round. This will be the logic in which the majority of pundits will base their dismissal of Groves’ chances and if he does -either through choice or necessity – stand in the pocket and exchange blows, he may come unstuck. Whilst questions over Groves’ chin remain, he will not be so careless in giving Froch the opportunity to stand in range and exchange, mirroring the tactics he employed against Degale.

Britain has had a long tradition of Super-Middleweight world champions, and since Chris Eubank won the WBO title in 1991 at least one British fighter has held a recognised belt every following year. It is therefore good news that this tradition will continue into 2014. However when these two Super-middleweights meet, the trade, as well as the general public, may be surprised at how the fight unfolds. Come Saturday night, the British Public should have a new Super-Middleweight champion to follow.

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