Why the World Boxing Super Series Semi-Final between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr is the perfect fight at an ideal time for British boxing fans
One of the more rarer sights in the fight game is that one of a plan perfectly falling into place. Often, be it due to an unhealthy cluster of politics, egos and in-ring upsets, forecasting a future fight or series of fights appears border on the impossible. However, in recent months, fans and interested parties alike have reaped the benefit of fights which were planned and crafted to perfection.
It was only last December where Anthony Joshua steamrolling the helpless Eric Molina immediately made way for Wladimir Klitschko to step into the Manchester Arena ring and announce the biggest fight to be held on British shores for the following April. This was closely followed by the tangible excitement of a Cinco De Mayo crowd in Las Vegas when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, after having pummeled Julio Cesar Chavez Jr like a pinata for 12 rounds, grabbed a microphone and summoned Gennady Golovkin from the back of the T Mobile Arena to signal the beginning of the lead in to this year’s most significant prizefight.
It almost goes without saying that both eagerly anticipated events delivered and in hindsight appear to be examples of fights there were crafted and timed to perfection. And in the space of seven days, under seven rounds of action and two locations, the groundwork was laid for another significant fight which will inevitably follow suit — this time coming in the Super-Middleweight division via the WBSS.
Rightly or wrongly, Chris Eubank Jr has a new set of believers after his destructive knockout of Avni Yildirim in Stuttgart last weekend. The 28 year old, with father by his side, strolled calmly into hostile enemy territory and turned fierce enemies into deep admirers with a fiery display of high octane power punching- dropping his Turkish opponent in the first before sleeping him with a right hand left hook combination in the third after his trademark flurry.
With the visible limitations of Yildirim (on paper and in ring) aside, this was the type of performance which can be seen as the key launchpad in the career of this long considered prospect from a famous lineage. Perception counts majorly within the confinement of high level combat and there are small noticeable subtleties now apparent in Eubank’s arsenal, from a varied jab and upper body movement to an increased punch variety, which gives his growing following hope that he can become the world level operator that he has always professed to being — or perhaps even the affirmation that he is “that” individual already.
Eubank’s latest success meant that he could blissfully spend this past weekend as a keen spectator at the Wembley Arena as he watched on to see who he would meet in the semi-final at the turn of the year. Ultimately, as the night drew to a close and as everyone had foreshadowed the moment the tournament line up was finalised, he was squaring off versus a recognisable name who would represent his toughest possible obstacle to world class status and, of course, tournament glory.
George Groves is in a rare sense both the unfortunate victim and the undeserved beneficiary of his varied experiences in the fight game. On one hand, he is forever tied to the brash young hopeful who displayed poise and skill beyond his age and experience levels even in defeat during his two part encounter with Carl Froch , when he now is a fighter lacking the sharpness and composure which almost came natural to the younger Groves. But on the other hand, the several world title setbacks and unfortunate events such as the injuries Edward Gutknecht suffered in their fight last November, have seen Groves, whilst far from a complete fighter, painted as the physically and mentally fragile individual that is at odds with his in ring perfomances.
This year has been testament to this in several ways. Whether it be the high of an emotionally charged May evening at Bramall Lane, where he braved an early storm and a broken jaw courtesy of Russian Fedor Chudinov to pick up a stoppage victory and finally reach the promise land of world title success. Or even in his victory this weekend, where he used his natural size intelligence and power advantages to shutdown the early blitz of Jamie Cox’s offence before ending the fight in the fourth with a piercing body shot — the type practiced for hours on end in the gym.
Everything that preceded brings us to the prospect of an event which appears timed to perfection for both fans and fighters alike. Groves vs Eubank is the latest in a long line of significant domestic super middleweight showdowns. The type of showdowns the Eubank’s enigmatic father played the main role in, as it carries a blend of intrigue, firepower and built-in narratives which would not look out of place amongst the dynamics and storylines fight fans used to salivate over in the nineties.
If the Yildirim fight was a launchpad to notoriety, a fight with Groves must surely represent Eubank’s day of reckoning. The past several years have served as a convenient diversion, however the only real fight Eubank Jr has been in unmasked fundamental technical flaws and tactical naivety in a decision loss to Billy Joe Saunders. In Groves, he faces the prospect of an individual with an ability to reopen former scars, in addition to a foe who is both physically imposing and a knockout puncher.
Nonetheless, Groves will have to be aware that Eubank Jr is an individual not only far removed from the young man who served as a sparring partner for him in the early stages of their careers but most likely an individual exhibiting a better version of himself than previously seen. In the lead up to this past weekend, Jamie Cox used the analogy that George Groves was essentially fighting for a “lobster dinner” whilst he was still starving — and in many ways, despite being a major domestic attraction and holding a worthless minor belt, the same still remains for Eubank Jr. Focus is imperative at all stages of one’s career but especially if you are setting out with the objective of consolidating a legacy in the fight game (after reaching the promised land) as George Groves is doing.
Groves must look to nullify a man on a mission and an individual who makes up for a lack of knockout power with the type of volume which can overwhelm many an opponent, let alone one with the questionable engine that Groves is burdened with.
It is these intangibles which make this showdown both significant and eagerly anticipated in the UK and beyond. The stars have aligned to facilitate a semi-final showdown which would overshadow most final’s and considering the ability of both to insult, sell and antagonise, the road to this event is in itself unlikely to be without drama.