It was crunch time in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final, in the super middleweight division. Manchester Arena, Manchester, England, played host to the WBA ‘Super’ World title fight between defending champion, George Groves & Chris Eubank Jr., on Saturday evening.
The two Brits had entertained in the build-up, with witty one-liners, and the fight had captured the imagination of the boxing public. Groves, 29, entered the ring as the more experienced. Eubank Jr., 28, entered the ring as a slight favourite in the betting.
‘Saint’ George Groves started the bout in a slightly crouched orthodox stance, left-hand low; Eubank more upright. It was a slow, cagey start with both getting a feel for the ring and their opponent.
In the second, it was Groves who found the range quicker and popped out the jab. Eubank touched down, with a hint of a glancing shot. Not ruled by the referee, Michael Alexander. Eubank went straight on the attack, punching his foe back to a neutral corner and unloading. Groves clinched and countered, we would see this over and over again, throughout the fight, George tying up with one hand and working with the other. He was mainly able to nullify and slip Eubank’s inside work, which was crude, at times.
The third round saw both men land with hard shots. But, Groves jabbed and then landed. When Eubank had success, with a hard punch, he would then swing far too crudely. The WBA titleholder was working from behind a decent jab, his opponent was falling short with his, and did all night. To make matters worse, an accidental head clash caused a nasty cut on Eubank’s right eye.
Groves, trained by Shane McGuigan, managed and controlled the distance. Eubank was left to only throwing and landing when in clinches. ‘Saint’ would smother his foe’s work on the inside. Eubank was getting small success, like at the end of the fourth and start of the fifth.
Entering the halfway stage, it seemed that Eubank’s gameplan was to get a KO. There was no working his way in and he’d been out-of-range, throughout most of the fight. Groves was fighting to a plan, circling, throwing the occasional jab and smothering when his adversary got close.
In the second half of the bout, Eubank found more success as his opponent tired. But, it was not often enough. The seventh Groves was evasive rather than active. The eighth saw Eubank caught by a left-right. He was looking clumsy and we never really got to see him let his hands go—he was being one-paced and neutralised by Groves movement. In the ninth, they traded a few shots after the bell. It was a round that had Eubank started fast and had success. The tenth and it was time for Eubank to really push the action. It was an exciting round, both landing bombs but more reckless shots from Chris. He missed a lot in this fight.
The final two rounds and Eubank was desperate to land, wild and inaccurate. Groves appeared to have dislocated his shoulder in a fantastic final round. Both men punched to a standstill, at the final bell.
I gave Eubank four rounds, one even and the rest to Groves: 116-113. George had used his experience and fought to a plan. Eubank was falling short and too reckless. Both men landed and took some hard shots, plenty of heart on display. I enjoyed the contest though it wasn’t a classic.
The official scores were: 117-112, 116-112, 115-113 to Groves
George Groves (28-3, 20 KOs), now progresses to the WBSS final. He’ll meet the winner of next weekend’s second semi-final between Juergen Braehmer and Callum Smith, which takes place at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, Nuremberg, Germany.
Chris Eubank Jr., (26-2, 20 KOs), said after the fight that he’d like to face Caleb Truax (IBF champion) or, if Groves can’t make the final, he’d step in. He also said he’d like to have a rematch. For me, he needs to go back to the drawing board. He has the ability but didn’t show it tonight.