George Groves versus Chris Eubank Junior – Analysis and Prediction
By Harry Rowland: ‘Saint’ George Groves is up against it when he defends his WBA (Super) Super Middleweight Title, against the dangerous young force that is Chris ‘The Next Generation’ Eubank Jr, at Manchester Arena, Manchester, England, on 17th February.
This bout is the semi-final stage of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Super Middleweight tournament, which will crown the winner with the Muhammad Ali trophy, from an initial eight world class contestants. A knockout series in which Groves was initially installed the odds on favorite to win. However, after both fighters’ most recent performances the tide has turned and now Eubank is 4-6 favorite to beat Groves.
Yet as Eubank 26-1 (20 KO) says himself, the odds don’t mean anything and wont make any difference to his physical and mental preparations for the fight. Both fighters had good performances in their lasts contests, Eubank dropping the unbeaten Turk Avni Yildirim in the first, before blasting him out in the third, with a lightening fast series of punches. Hammersmith based Groves took care of domestic rival, and also unbeaten challenger Jamie Cox. After an initial onslaught from Cox, Groves was able to put him away with one clean body shot in the fourth.
Although both impressed, it was Eubank that really captured attention with the more dominant performance. Yilidrim never had a chance, as Eubank’s commitment to his punches produced a dazzling highlight reel knockout. Groves on the other hand had to come through a grueling few rounds of back and forth before landing the perfect punch. You can see how the odds makers have come to their conclusion: against two opponents of very similar ilk, Groves could have landed a lucky punch, whereas Eubank left no doubt in the mind.
Groves 27-3 (20 KO) has a different opinion on the matter ‘Junior’s punching from the ankles is how I’d describe it, it’s a little bit life and death, his chins in the air. He’s coming up on his toes. He got away with it that night because the quality of opposition just wasn’t there’. Eubank is known for his exciting style, which by definition leaves a fighter vulnerable, the more punches thrown and the more power applied, results in more opportunities for an adversary to take advantage. Eubank’s over-commitment to his shots have caused him to be wobbled in the past by counter punches from Nick Blackwell and Gary O’Sullivan.
Groves has been around long enough to know what he is looking at, and he will definitely be the thinker in the fight, looking for opportunities to exploit young Junior’s over eagerness. The problem Groves might find is that Eubank’s sheer volume of punches will make it hard to find that window of opportunity, and as proven in the past, once a good counter does get through, he has the chin to shake it off.
Eubank’s own interpretation of Groves’ last performance is focused more on a psychological analysis of post-fight behavior ‘Look at him, kissing everyone, hugging everybody, blissfully happy. Like he didn’t really expect that or didn’t really know maybe if he was going to win. He’s just so relieved’. Whereas he himself opts to be stone faced at all times.
After putting in a disappointing performance in his only loss, against Billy Joe Saunders in 2014, having only coming to life in the second half of the fight, Eubank has since vastly improved his game. Now on a current eight fight win streak (seven early), it seems clear that he is coming into his peak. One gets the feeling he is on the verge of a career best performance, he just needs the right level of opponent to legitimize his efforts, and now he has it.
Grove’s career has been well documented, bursting onto the world scene and capturing the public’s imagination with a heroic controversial losing effort, against unified champion Carl Froch in 2013. After decisively losing an immediate rematch in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, another disappointing loss came at the hands of WBC champion Badou Jack, but this has been followed by six wins including a fourth time lucky world title bid, against capable champion Fedor Chudinov last year.
So we now have a fight between two young, fresh, and exciting, divisional top five ranked world champions (if you consider Eubank’s IBO belt a legitimate world title). Both men are under 30 and carry enough power to make this a very entertaining match-up indeed. Perhaps wrongly discounting Eubank’s talents, this fight is widely considered to be Groves’ calculating brain and experience against Eubank’s brawn and relentlessness.
When the two meet in the center of the ring it is expected that the smaller Eubank will be using his superior speed and combination punching to outwork his foe. While doing so, using well timed footwork to get him in and out of range when necessary. If Eubank can make it somewhat of a brawl on the inside, utilizing his signature uppercut, we can expect to see his vaunted work rate pile up the points as the rounds go by.
Groves will be looking to box on the outside using straight shots to pile up his own points lead, as he did when taking a close decision over James DeGale back in 2011. He will need to time his counter punches perfectly to overcome the more aggressive tactics of The Brighton man. Despite a disadvantage in hand speed, Groves has the quicker footwork to implement his strategy. He himself has a good work rate, but has been known to slow down in the later rounds as he did against Froch, in their first fight, and Jack.
There has been a lot made by the Groves camp of having a distinct size advantage, as Eubank is relatively new to the division, stepping up from middleweight only last year. Yet when measured up he is only half an inch taller at 5 foot 11.5 inches, and suffers half an inch disadvantage in reach, at 72″. After both weighing in at the middleweight championship limit of 160lbs, it is assumed that Groves will be re-hydrating to a higher weight, but how much more than Eubank can it be? Probably only seven or eight pounds at the most.
On paper this is a real fifty-fifty fight, with guaranteed excitement. it is not known who’s style, skills and game plan will prevail, but I think its fairly certain that there will be a number of closely contested rounds. I expect it will start out a cagey affair, heating up into a classic as the rounds go on. Despite Grove’s confidence, Eubank must have the mental edge, knowing, unlike Groves, he has never tasted the canvas or come close to being knocked out. It is very reassuring for a fighter to know that if there is a knockout, it will likely be the other guy.
In a close fight on the scorecards, I see the fresher Eubank taking a unanimous points victory, or perhaps wearing Groves down for a late stoppage. Eubank’s speed and work rate, combined with his granite chin should see him through to the WBSS final, against another Briton Callum Smith – the likely winner of the other semi-final against German Juergen Braehmer. Groves by no means a spent force, will need to regroup once again, and fight his way back to the top.
The WBSS tournament is a great way to cut through the confusion of the four major governing bodies, and leave us with one widely recognized world champion in a weight class. However, there will always be another rival laying claim to the throne. By the time this tournament reaches its finale in the Summer, this will likely be one of two fellow current world champions – Mexico’s Gilberto Ramirez (WBO) and USA’s David Benavidez (WBC).
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