George Groves Says Goodbye
By Sean Bastow
This week marked the announcement that the career of George Groves has come to an end.
Groves 30, has made the decision to step away from the boxing ring after an eleven year career filled with excitement at every corner, and the chase that every fighter at some point of their career dreams of…the chase for a world title.
Groves made his professional debut way back in 2008 on the undercard of David Haye’s clash with Monte Barrett, picking up a points win against fellow novice pro Kirill Psonko.
Eight fights later and he was challenging for the Commonwealth super middleweight title against veteran Charles Adamu in what was the first acid test of his career. Adamu had four losses on his record when he met Groves, but had never been stopped…that was until Groves seemingly lethal right hand came in to play, stopping Adamu in the sixth round and becoming the Commonwealth champion in the process.
After making his American debut in July 2010 sharing the bill with the likes of Juan Marquez, Dimitry Pirog and Jorge Linares, Groves was then ordered to face mandatory challenger for his Commonwealth title Kenny Anderson.
The fight with Anderson was the first time we got to see the vulnerable side of Groves, after shipping a little punishment Groves was knocked to the canvas for the first time in his career. As we would see in future fights, a light switched on in Groves mind where he would automatically revert to fighting as opposed the slick counter punching style that had seen him to the Commonwealth title, and after a barrage of punches Groves stopped Anderson in the sixth round and successfully defended his title.
Next up was a name synonymous to Groves’s career all the way up to the end…James DeGale.
The fight with DeGale was one of genuine bad blood, they had fought before in the amateur’s where Groves had beaten DeGale and always had that physiological edge. The fight didn’t need selling to the public as both Groves & DeGale were outspoken and said what they felt which was evident on an episode of “Ringside” where both men sat side by side being interviewed whilst trading insults.
The two finally met on the 21st May 2011 at the O2 in London, the first time both men had headlined on a pay per view event. The stakes were high as both men held titles, Groves held the Commonwealth, DeGale held the prestigious British title. After a compelling twelve rounds two judges scored the bout 115-114 to Groves with the other scoring it even.
A rematch at some point seemed inevitable and was very close to becoming an immediate rematch when Groves signed with Frank Warren, who also had DeGale under his banner. However as is the case in boxing sometimes politics rule and the fight did not happen.
George Groves would move on in his career scoring impressive victories over Paul Smith, and Glen Johnson and continued to work his way on to the world rankings, picking up the WBA inter-continental title on the undercard of Carl Froch’s rematch with Mikkel Kessler foreshadowing a clash between Groves and Froch.
In mid-2013 the IBF installed Groves as the mandatory challenger to Carl Froch with the bout scheduled for 23rd November 2013 with both the IBF and WBA titles on the line.
The build up to this fight is one of the most memorable in recent history with the young and hungry lion in Groves trying to unsettle the veteran champion in Froch. On various occasions it seemed that this physiological warfare had worked and on an episode of “Ringside” it was clear to see how frustrated the champion had got. During this time Groves also split with long-time trainer Adam Booth and had opted to go with Paddy Fitzpatrick.
The fight itself again is one that will go down in recent history as one of the most exciting, both men came flying out of the blocks from the first bell and much to the surprise of the crowd and millions watching at home, Groves dropped Froch with a hard counter right hand which put Froch on the canvas and had the champion reeling.
The fight progressed on, and both had great success, however as the fight started to get into the championship rounds, Groves started to tire, and in the ninth round, Froch unleashed an attack which prompted referee Howard Foster to step in, much to the dismay of the fans in attendance and many pundits ringside. It is debated to this day that Mr Foster stepped in too soon.
As a result the public and Groves demanded an immediate rematch, which was ordered by the IBF and it was set for the 31st May 2014 at the only place which could hold such a demand…Wembley Stadium.
The pre-fight build was just as entertaining as the first time round, but this time it seemed Froch was more equipped to deal with the taunts from Groves and even got physical on a couple of occasions.
It is an old cliché saying that rematches are never as good as the first, and for the most part this was the case with Froch/Groves II. It was a cagey affair throughout the rounds with neither man willing to really engage, it seemed Froch had maybe underestimated Groves the first time round.
In the eighth round Groves came out fighting, but Froch managed to pin him against the ropes and delivered a right hand which Mike Costello of the BBC referred to as “the best punch you will ever see in a British boxing ring”.
The fight was immediately waved off after Groves was knocked out cold for a few seconds, but to his credit still tried to get up and fight on. This would call an end to the Froch/Groves rivalry and also an end to the career of “The Cobra”, for George Groves it was about rebuilding and he picked up two victories to finish off the year.
In 2015 Groves was given another opportunity at a world title as he was made mandatory for Badou Jack’s WBC title. The fight took place on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather vs Andre Berto. In the first round Groves was knocked down and it seemingly looked like it was going to be a disastrous night at the office, however Groves battled back throughout the bout and it went to the judges scorecards, with two judges giving it to the champion and the other to Groves.
This was the third failed attempt at a world title for Groves and seemingly looked like it might never happen.
Groves decided to rebuild and in doing so hired young trainer Shane McGuigan. The relationship blossomed with Groves picking up victories over David Brophy and Martin Murray and Eduard Gutknecht with the latter being a fight that will stay with Groves forever due to the injuries suffered by Gutknecht in the fight.
The victories put Groves right back into the title picture and as a result of picking up a WBA International title in the process, it paved the way for another world title shot as the WBA title had become vacant.
On the 27th May 2017 George Groves faced off against Fedor Chudinov in what was Groves fourth and surely final world title shot.
The fight was a back and forth affair with both men opting to fight as opposed to box their way to victory, it was going to be a case of whoever landed the first telling blow would be able to take hold of the fight. Fortunately for British fight fans its was Groves.
After suffering a cut above the eye in the fourth round, Groves automatically went into seek and destroy mode as he unloaded a barrage of punches to which Chudinov could not respond to and referee Steve Gray called halt to the fight with one minute and fourteen seconds left. Groves admitted after the win that he had suffered a broken jaw in the third round and had required surgery to rectify the issue.
Groves had finally done it, he had achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a world champion, much to the delight of many fans in the UK.
So what was left to do for George Groves after realising his dream, at this point he could have retired and the legacy he created would have not been looked at any less.
Groves had other plans and decided to join the inaugural World Boxing Super Series tournament alongside some of the best super middleweights on the planet.
The format of the tournament was simple eight men in knockout stage style competition with the prize being the Muhammad Ali trophy and potentially more titles given that other champions were involved in the tournament. Jamie Cox was first up for Groves.
The fight with Cox took place on the 14th October 2017 in London, and Groves came out the victor with a devastating well-timed body shot which put down Cox for the ten count.
After beating Jamie Cox, Groves would then move on to the next stage of the tournament to face Chris Eubank Jr. Naturally a middleweight, Eubank had made the move up to super middleweight and entered the tournament beating Avirl Yildram in emphatic fashion thus creating the debate of whether the younger, fresher man could beat Groves.
The bout took place on the 17th February 2018 in Manchester, the fight was billed by many as a 50/50 fight even though Groves was the more experienced fighter and was also the WBA champion. Eubank, came into the bout with the lightly regarded IBO belt and was looking to go some way to living up to the family name by dethroning Groves.
The fight surprised many fans and pundits alike, as Groves controlled the pace throughout the twelve rounds in what was a messy affair at times with a lot of clinches and unclean punches, Groves was given the fight on all three judges’ scorecards. Both men suffered injuries in the bout with Eubank suffering a nasty cut at the side of the eye, and Groves dislocating his shoulder in the eleventh round.
The final of the World Boxing Super Series was to be contested by George Groves and fellow Brit Liverpool’s Callum Smith who had beaten Erik Skoglund and Nieky Holzken on his way to the final. Due to the injury suffered by Groves in the Eubank fight there was plenty of speculation that he may not be able to compete, and there was even a suggestion that Chris Eubank could replace him to face Smith in the final.
Eventually this was brushed aside and Groves was allowed the time to fully recover to compete in the final and rightly so.
The fight was staged in Saudi Arabia on the 28th September 2018, with the WBA, and ring magazine belt on the line. After a close-knit affair and both fighters being even on the scorecards, Callum Smith found a way through the Groves defence with a hook which staggered him back to the ropes and Smith followed up with a vicious body shot.
Groves could not make the count and as a result lost the title he fought so hard to win and the chance to become the first winner of the Muhammad Ali trophy.
After months of deliberation and time away from the ring George Groves made following comments on the 28th January 2019
“After four attempts I finally fulfilled my childhood dream, and the experience was as great as I had always imagined it would be,” Groves added. “It was without doubt the best moment of my career.
“Boxing has been good to me and I believe I have been good for boxing. I hope I have entertained you all; I have always strived to be the best fighter I can be.”
“In my darkest and hardest times, it has been other people’s energy and enthusiasm that has kept me focused and determined to achieve my dreams,” added Groves.
“Over the years I have seen and sadly known the dangers of the sport, and I want to respectfully bow out while I’m at the top of my game.
“I’ve learned that doesn’t always mean coming off the back of a win. I’ve boxed at the highest level, all over the world, I’ve been a champion, and I’ll be leaving the sport (relatively!) intact.”
This was his official announcement that he had called time on the career after eleven years and thirty-two fights
George Groves leaves the sport having achieved the following:
• WBA World Champion
• European Champion
• Commonwealth Champion
• British Champion
• 2006/07 ABA Champion