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DeGale wants Groves rematch after Eubank Jr. fight

Chris Eubank Jr, George Groves, James DeGale boxing photo

By Scott Gilfoid: James DeGale is looking past his potential fight against Chris Eubank Jr. for February towards a rematch with former WBA super middleweight champion George Groves. DeGale, 32, says he wants to avenge his 12 round majority loss to Groves (28-4, 20 KOs) from May 2011. It bothers DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) that he wasn’t able to avenge that loss, which is one of two defeats on his 10-year pro record.

Unfortunately, the chances are VERY high that DeGale is going to lose to Eubank Jr., so it’s almost pointless for him to be blabbering about wanting to fight Groves again. Once DeGale gets trounced by Eubank Jr. in February, it’ll be academic that the Groves-DeGale 2 fight won’t happen. Right now, DeGale’s goal of facing Groves in a rematch looks like a pathetic pipe dream by someone who doesn’t realize how past his prime he is.

DeGale avenged his 12 round majority decision loss to Caleb Truax by defeating him by a 12 round unanimous decision in their rematch last April in 2018. Although it was a controversial decision win for DeGale over Truax, he’s not bothered by it, and has moved on and wants Eubank Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs) next followed by a rematch with Groves if he can get it.

“Probably Groves,” DeGale said to secondsout when asked who he wants to fight in the future. “I have two losses on my record. I avenged one of them [against Caleb Truax]. The one left is George Groves. That’s a massive one. I think before we finish our careers, it would be stupid not to fight again. Let’s get it done. After I beat [Chris] Eubank, I might want to call it a day,” DeGale said.

There’s some controversy involved with DeGale’s win over Truax in their rematch last April. DeGale technically beat Truax, but he lost that fight in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans, and he looked terrible throughout, like he was incapable of throwing punches. In a word, DeGale looked ‘shot’ as can be. He couldn’t throw punches, and appeared to be 100% over-the-hill. The only parts of DeGale’s old game that seemed to be stll intact in the rematch with Truax was his mobility and his clinching. DeGale did both of those things very well, but as far as throwing shots, he was incapable of doing that. DeGale had shoulder surgery after his questionable 12 round draw against Badou Jack. It’s believed that DeGale came back way too soon in returning to the ring to face Truax for their first fight in December 2017. That fight took place 11 months following DeGale’s shoulder surgery, but appears that his shoulder wasn’t 100 percent at that time. DeGale didn’t look any better in the rematch with Truax, at least in terms of his offensive output. The only difference is DeGale held a lot more, and he spent most of the fight on the move trying not to get hit. There was no offensive output from DeGale to speak of in that fight. It was pure holding and moving. The signifcant shots that were landed in the fight was from Truax’s side. However, he was the B-side player in that fight despite holding the International Boxing Federation title at the time, so it’s not surprising that Truax lost.

“I have respect for Groves, because he achieved his dreams after he got knocked out a couple of times,” DeGale said. “He’s done well, so I’m going to give him credit. But we don’t like each other.”

DeGale is trying to play up his old rivalry with Groves, but the feelings likely aren’t mutual. Groves has done a lot more with his career since beating DeGale, and he’s clearly not been thinking about him. If DeGale’s goal is to try and get the boxing public excited about a rematch between him and Groves based on the animosity they have for each other, it likely won’t work. The older British boxing fans that remember the previous fight between Groves and DeGale seven years ago in 2011 might care somewhat about seeing the two face each other again, but the newer fans aren’t going to care one bit at seeing them face each other again. Those boxing fans would prefer to see Groves fight Callum Smith again. Even that fight isn’t one that boxing fans are excited about. The fans want to see Callum fight Canelo Alvarez, David Benavidez or Gennady Golovkin. Groves was already beaten by Callum, so the two of them don’t need to face each other again right now. Groves needs to redeem himself first by getting some wins under his belt before the fans start showing interest in a second fight between them. It would be too soon for Smith and Groves to fight each other if it took place right now.

The 30-year-old Groves is coming off of a seventh round knockout loss to Callum Smith on September 28 in the final of the World Boxing Super Series 168 pound tournament in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Although Groves was fighting Smith to a standstill on the three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage, it was clear that he was fading in the second half of the contest. The way that Smith stopped Groves, it was clear that who the better man of the two was. After that defeat, it’s difficult to imagine Groves being able to bounce back from it to defeat the other top dogs at super middleweight like David Benavidez, Saul Canelo Alvarez, Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez or Jose Uzcategui. Ramirez is moving up in weight to light heavyweight, so he’s not an option for Groves. Canelo likely wouldn’t be bothered to fight Groves right now with the way he looked in losing to Callum. The World Boxing Council super middleweight tite is vacant at this time. If Groves wants to go after that belt, he certainly can, but he would likely need to mix it up with hard-hitting young 22-year-old former WBC 168 lb champion David Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) for him to get a shot at the WBC belt, and that would be a really hard fight for Saint George right now. Benavidez is like a busier version of 28-year-old Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs). The power is identical for the two guys, but the 22-year-old Benavidez is younger than Callum, and with a much higher work rate. Groves would have a lot of problems with Benavidez’s heavy hands, youth and his work rate. It would be better for groves to stay in the position he’s in right now, and go after the World Boxing Association 168 lb title as soon as Canelo gives it up or has is stripped from him for inactivity. However, the WBA might take the same approach that they did with Keith Thurman by freezing their WBA Super World super middleweight title, and Canelo sit on the belt without defending it for two years. That’s what the WBA has done with Thurman. He hasn’t fought since March 2016, and the WBA hasn’t stripped him of his WBA belt. If Groves still cares about titles, he might need to go in another direction towards a different strap unless he wants to fight Callum again. That’s not a good idea given how Groves was taken apart by Smith last September.

“There’s a bit of a rivalry. I can’t stand him, and he can’t stand me,” said DeGale. “So, Groves beat me by a majority decision. A lot of people think I won. It obviously bothers me a little bit. It’s the only loss on my record that I didn’t avenge,” DeGale added.

If you want to go by the poor performances that DeGale has had during his career and count them as losses, he has more than just two losses. If you take away all the controversial decision wins and draws from DeGale’s career and count them as losses, which arguably should, he should have SIX defeats, not just two, to the following fighters:

George Groves

Caleb Truax x 2

Piotr Wilczewski

Hadillah Mohoumadi

Badou Jack

If you saw those fights, you’ll know what this writer is talking about. DeGale talks about having only two defeats, but he’s had a lot of fights where the judges gave him huge breaks with the way they scored those above fights. Even in DeGale’s loss to Truax, you have one judge unbelievably scoring it as a draw.

“We’d be stupid if we didn’t get it on. I imagine seven, eight years fighting again,” DeGale said.

If Groves and DeGale face each other right now, the fight will be viewed as an old timer’s fight in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans. If Groves is good with that, then he should go ahead and take the fight. DeGale obviously is chomping at the bit eager to face Groves again in a rematch. For Groves, he still has a little left in the tank and doesn’t need to face DeGale again in an old timer’s fight. Of course, if Groves doesn’t fight DeGale now, then there won’t be any chance for a second fight. DeGale will get beaten by two or three more fighters and wind up retiring.

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