Groves vs. Eubank is a Career Defining Fight for Both Men
By Ajuan Isaac-George: Britain has a strong tradition of big fights at super middleweight. The likes of Nigel Benn and Joe Calzaghe have participated in some of the nations biggest ever boxing events. This weekend at the Manchester Arena George Groves will defend his WBA Super Middleweight title against Chris Eubank Jr, who will put the lesser known IBO title on the line, in a fight that many feel could immediately become part of this history.
Opinion has been truly divided. There are those who feel that the variation in Groves jab, his big fight experience and size will simply be too much for Eubank to handle. At the other end of the spectrum, the hand speed, relentlessness and supposedly ironclad chin of Eubank will culminate in Groves, who has been known to fade down the stretch, crumbling in the late rounds. Regardless of the outcome, the 17th of February is a test for both men, one that will have a significant impact on both of their legacies.
When Groves stopped Chudinov in the 6th round for the WBA title in a contest that was on the verge of becoming brutal, even his most bitter rival, Carl Froch, gave him a standing ovation. After three previous failed attempts to win a world title, twice against the aforementioned Froch and against the then underrated Badou Jack, many felt Groves had missed his opportunity. For those firmly in the Eubank corner however, the Chudinov victory simply proved why Groves is incapable of beating Chris Eubank Jr. Sure, Groves beat Chudinov and then previously unbeaten Jamie Cox, also by stoppage, but he looked vulnerable in doing so. Both men have come forward styles but with significantly lower punch output and athleticism than Eubank. If the two of them, Chudinov especially, can land significant punches, then surely Eubank can as well?
Still, is Eubank really better than either of those fighters? Or, as suggested by fans of George Groves, is he just a product of social media marketing, Instagram clips and family name who has no business being at elite level and will be dominated in accordingly brutal fashion. Athleticism and hand speed can only mask technical flaws and tactical ineptness for so long. Surely Eubank cannot continue to drop his lead hand without fear of retribution from the dangerous right hand of Groves? Not only did Eubank lose the one and only time he stepped up in class against Billy Jo Saunders but in all the fights since, Eubank has been matched against face first and flat footed men. The best name on his record, Arthur Abraham, although durable as ever, at 37 years of age is noticeably shop worn. It remains to be seen whether he has the guile and ring IQ to land the flashy combinations for which he is becoming famous against opponents who are not there just to be hit.
These are just a few of the opinions you’ll see on YouTube or Twitter should you take the time to look. The reality of the situation is slightly more mediated. George Groves may have looked vulnerable in his last few fights but he still won by fairly early stoppage on both occasions, showing his power. He does not have the aggressiveness and snap in his punches that he did once upon a time, particularly in the first Froch fight, but he uses his jab more maturely, takes a measured approach in his work and has a veterans experience at the age of 29. This experience however is the double edged sword that could prove his undoing. The fight education Groves has earned across numerous championship bouts has inevitably come with some wear and tear on the body. If that results in him having slipped from his best even slightly, Eubank has the style to take advantage. Although Eubank is an average sized middleweight and Groves a big Super Middle, traditionally the jump between 160lbs and 168lbs has not been the most difficult. Fighters in the Cruiserweight and Heavyweight divisions often face opponents with a 5-10b weight advantage, similar to the advantage Groves will have come fight night. Yes, Eubank may have lost to Billy Jo Saunders but in hindsight, given Saunders recent form that defeat does not look so bad. Although It has been suggested that Saunders dominated the fight, it was in fact a split decision victory that could have gone either way. Eubank is much improved since then and Groves is not the elusive target that Saunders was for the first six rounds of that bout. He is there to be hit. The central narrative of the bout will centre around if Eubank has enough ring craft and timing to get inside Groves Jab.
For both men however, it is the most important fight of their careers. Although Groves has been in bigger fights, should he lose against Eubank, he will be remembered as a man who could rarely win when the pressure was on. It will be hard to imagine him at world level again. Nevertheless, he has still won a legitimate world title. The effects of a lose on Eubanks’ career would be arguably even more devastating. With no top promoter backing him , it would an extremely long road back if he is to challenge for a respected version of the world title again. It is a chance for Groves to cement himself and for Eubank to show he is the real deal. It is not a fight you want to miss.
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