After A Vintage 2017, Groves and Eubank Jr Look To Start 2018 Off On A High
With 2017 in the rearview we look back on what has been a Golden Year for Boxing, while looking forward to 2018 with an optimism that it can emulate or even surpass the vintage 2017. With the semi-finals and finals of the World Boxing Super Series – with the cruiserweight division all but guaranteeing its best action for years, not to mention a rematch between Canelo and Golovkin, likely Unifications in the heavyweight division with even the possibility of an undisputed champion, the return of Tyson Fury, the potential huge fights in the lightweight division of Lomachenko, Garcia, Linares, and Bud Crawford‘s move to a stacked 147 division – Boxing is once again set for a great year.
One of those fights that has caught the public’s imagination, certainly this side of the pond, is the Semi-Final of the WBSS between WBA super middleweight champion George Groves, ranked No.2 in the world, and his opponent IBO champion Chris Eubank Jr, ranked No.4
Both come into the semi-final on the back of KO victories, firstly Eubank with a third round kayo of the fairly unknown, but previously unbeaten Anvi Yildirim, followed a week later by an impressive fourth round kayo by Groves over fellow Brit, Jamie Cox. Eubank put in an impressive display and ruthless finish in a dominant show of force, whilst Groves had a bit more of a shoot out, with Cox having some success on the night before Groves ended matters with a wicked body shot in the fourth.
This set up a mouth-watering semi-final between the two and arguably what may well be the fight of the two-division tournament. So how will this pan out? Eubank goes into the fight as slight favourite according to the bookies, although Groves is by no means an ‘outsider‘. Groves has fought at world level for the last four years, losing twice to Carl Froch – the first time controversially whilst up on all three scorecards, the second time quite emphatically, a tight split decision loss against the vastly underrated Badou Jack, before getting the deserved world title with a stoppage win over Fedor Chudinov. Add to that the bitter rivalry and razor close win over James DeGale, plus an emphatic two round stoppage over Paul Smith and a 12 round destruction over veteran Glen Johnson, Groves has proven he belongs at world level.
So have the bookies got it wrong? Eubank Jr looks and trains like he’s in permanent beast mode – and to be fair he is. There can be no doubting his engine and work rate and his heart is there for all to see – Eubank simply LOVES to fight. Loves the war. However, all this includes training 365 days a year….could he overtrain? You have to suspect that he is capable of fighting like that for 12 rounds, but what about against true world class opposition? Make no mistake, this is a big step up for Eubank. Yes, he has impressive wins over Nick Blackwell, Gary O’Sullivan – great fights, and started to look tired against Spike after seven frenetic rounds. A superb 12th round stoppage over Dmitry Chudinov, 10 rounds against the widely unknown Renold Quinlan and a 12 round lopsided decision against a worn Arthur Abraham. So Eubank has faced quality, but has he faced true world class? The fact remains that the best fighter he has fought was Billy Joe Saunders at a time when neither would really be considered world class operators. We all know that Eubank lost, and depending on your take (Eubank fans will say a close split decision, Saunders fans point out the first six round schooling by BJS and a bad scorecard) is how you feel about that fight. So arguably, this is really and truly Chris Eubank’s real first time at world level. It’s the first time he is fighting for a major world title; against the vastly experienced Groves at this level. So who wins?
Forgive the cliche, but it really is whoever makes it ‘their’ fight. If Groves is dragged into a Eubank style war, trading punch for punch at a high intensity pace for round after round, you would have to favour Eubank, who we’ve already established thrives on this style of fight and has the engine to maintain it. Groves is notorious for ‘gassing’ later rounds, so if his advantage in the power stakes hasn’t told after six to seven rounds, you’d seriously have to consider the likelihood that Eubank stops him late on.
If Groves can use his experience and get into an early rhythm, from the first bell, keep Eubank at distance, out jab him, make the power shots down the middle count when Eubank goes on an inevitable wide and wild attack out of frustration, Groves can make this look relatively and surprisingly easy and score a decent unanimous decision. The trouble is, Groves does have a tendency to get drawn into wars needlessly (think Froch first time around) and this could allow Junior to dictate the way the fight goes. It most certainly is an intriguing and exciting matchup, not just great for British boxing but for boxing on the whole.
So my prediction… I’m going with Groves to put in an early masterclass, be ahead comfortably until late rounds, get dragged into a late war but hold on for long enough to see out a points victory. As a little side bet, don’t be surprised to see both men visit the canvas – the first time of Eubank Jr’s career.