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Patience the key if George Groves is to rule

George GrovesBy Paul Wood: My immediate impression following the spirited defeat against Carl Froch in their first fight back in 2013 was that if George Groves can recover and if he can learn from that setback he could become a real threat to all fighters in the 168lb division.

What we have seen since is a fighter struggling to recapture that threat, that intent, and that sharpness to make him a genuine contender at the top level.

Another change in trainer followed the defeat to Badou Jack – his third failed attempt at a world title – was the path Groves opted for, albeit done in a slightly distasteful and very public manner with the blaming of Paddy Fitzpatrick for that loss. The event at the CopperBox Arena last night gave us a first look at any changes made under new man and much thought-of trainer Shane McGuigan. Groves was efficient, he was a clear favorite for the fight and while he still lacked that sharpness and edge that saw him have the last word in several of those explosive exchanges in that first fight with Froch, he took care of business and stopped the Italian Andrea Di Luisa in the fifth round. Groves was also well ahead on the cards.

What was evident was the constant switching of attacks from head to body especially with that rangy and snappy left jab. Groves alluded to this after the fight claiming it was the best body shots he had ever delivered in a fight.

The jab is clearly an imperious weapon for Groves, at its best, it can be authoritative, range finding, and can not only keep an opponent off balance and unsettled but can be thoroughly frustrating chewing leather and not being able to get close enough to respond.

It was a fight Groves was expected to win but it is important his relationship, understanding and trust with McGuigan develops and they have sufficient time to develop alternative methods as well as continuing to work on the strengths that Groves already possesses before taking on another world title challenge.

As an opponent Di Luisa was a good match up for Groves, the visitor’s supposed power was not quite as evident as some may have thought and he wasn’t the most difficult opponent to hit. He was upright and fairly open for much of the five rounds.Still, Groves had a job to do and he did it in a relatively accomplished fashion.

Groves promoter Kalle Sauerland talked post-fight about having another shot at a world title before the year is out and Groves would most likely jump at another chance of a title if he was offered it next week! But he is still only 27, his balding head and lackluster performances of late may suggest to some he is already fading as a fighter, but I don’t believe he should be rushed into his next big opportunity.

For me the current George Groves struggles against Badou Jack (WBC Champion), James DeGale (IBF Champion), and Arthur Abraham (WBO Champion), but has a chance with the WBA belts that are in the possession of Fedor Chudinov and Giovanni De Carolis. But why rush? Let Groves try and recapture that earlier promise and rebuild his stock with a series of fights leading up to another assault on a world title by staying busy and building that bond with McGuigan.

Groves may struggle to mentally cope with another failed title shot, that would make it four, so allow him time to enhance his confidence. That is not to suggest he is fed a diet of below-par boxers, but to pick his fights sensibly and increase the quality of his opponents. If he gets to finally win a world title, the tough part will be keeping hold of it.

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