By Terence Dooley
Kenny Anderson’s fifth-round stoppage win over former WBC super middleweight world champion Robin Reid should have been the start of a new dawn for the Edinburgh-based boxer. Anderson picked up the vacant British 168lb title, he has a meeting with former champion Paul Smith penciled in for his first defence and given that former champion George Groves has recently moved on to bigger things the Scottish boxer believed that he would no longer have to field questions about his former opponent.
Groves, 15-0 (12), stopped Anderson, 18-1 (13), in the sixth-round of their Commonwealth title fight in November 2010. The Londoner hit the deck in the third, but got up to register a win. Further victories over Daniel Adotey Allotey, James DeGale, Paul Smith and Francisco Sierra have led to a showdown with former undisputed world champion Glen Johnson on December 15.
Groves, though, had a series of fights lined up with Anderson over the past year after the BBBoC mandated a Groves-Anderson return for Groves’s British title. Injuries put paid to two of the dates, the lack of a suitable venue nixed a third, and Groves was eventually stripped of his title by the Board, which freed it up for Anderson and Reid.
Despite claims that the bad history between the two had led to death threats against Groves, which came to light in the British press in March yet did not lead to a sustained police investigation, the elevation of Groves pushed their rivalry to the backburner. However, things heated up again in the wake of Anderson’s win over Reid when a Tweet was sent to Groves’s account by an Anderson fan who claimed to be his brother-in-law.
The Tweet, which stated that Groves’s wife should take a bath in bleach, was condemned by Anderson, and deleted by the person who sent it. The fan in question went on to claim that telling a woman to bathe in bleach is used as a condemnation of her moral fiber, rather than colour, in Edinburgh and indeed this is the case in other Northern towns such as Liverpool and Manchester.
This said, it lacked class given that Grove’s wife is not involved in the sport and should not be targeted by rival fans. Moreover, Groves’s decision to publish a photo on his Twitter feed of someone, presumably Groves, throwing the Lonsdale belt into the bin, his reiteration of the claim that he has endured a death threat, plus racist and other abuse from Anderson’s family, has prompted a swift response from the new British champion.
“I don’t mind a bit of ribbing, that’s part of the sport, but not to have someone slandering my name, I can’t have that and something needs to be done, so I’ve sought legal advice,” said Anderson when speaking to BoxingScene. “It is OK getting abuse from random fans on Twitter, but an opponent and fellow sportsman, who has over 30,000 fans on Twitter, claiming racism from me or my family is something that cannot be allowed to happen. I know people say stuff in the heat of the moment, but it is not something that’s been said randomly, he’s left it out there so people can see what he’s saying.”
Anderson, though, admitted that he does know the person who abused Groves’s wife on Twitter, but argued out that he is not a member of his close family or circle and did not represent his views.
“No, and I didn’t even know that this guy had made this remark,” he said when asked if the comment came from an immediate family member. “But I don’t think that racism would come into his mindset. A local journalist said it was similar to when you tell a woman to have a bath in Dettol or with some wire and bleach — it is not meant as serious or racist in any way.
“I’m not married, for a start, so he isn’t an in-law (as claimed by Groves), but sportsmen can’t be responsible for what their fans might say. What I say is my own opinion, and I stand by them, and that’s obviously something that is not representative of me. To say I’m a racist is totally unfounded. I know that I did not make racial comments. I know that my friends aren’t racist. I come from Edinburgh, a very multicultural city, and have been brought up here among all races.
“I’ve worked with guys like Yassine (El Maachi), Jeff (Thomas) and have cousins who are Jamaican. I’m not trying to play the nice guy, I’m not saying I’m a good guy, but I’m certainly not racist. This guy is my girlfriend’s cousin or something that like. People made it out to be someone who was practically living in my house.
“So to say my family is racist, or has given George racist abuse, is unfounded and untrue. I have not appointed a spokesman to speak on behalf of Kenny Anderson. I am my own man and speak for myself. A comment that isn’t anything to do with me, and the person who made it has said wasn’t meant to be racist, has blackened my name. I’m just glad that people I care about know it is not true.”
The abuse leveled at Groves’s wife appeared on Sunday morning, the photo of the British title being deposited into the bin was published last night. The bad feeling between the two has played out across social media sites with increasing regularity, but Anderson believes it is Groves who is stoking the flames.
“It is a personal attack on me through Twitter,” he said. “It isn’t the first time he’s done this, there were personal attacks from him against my trainer, Kevin Maree, that went too far and there’s been problems between him and other boxers. I used to think that James DeGale was the problem, but there’s since been arguments with Smith and this stuff with me. I’ve not had any falling outs with other boxers apart from him, but he’s had a few now.
“I wish Groves all success for his future because he’s moved on. I didn’t want to mention him before my fight. If a reporter spoke to me about Groves then I made a point of dismissing it because I didn’t want to disrespect Robin. It is closed in my mind between me and him because we’re not fighting and there’s no business between us now.”
Anderson also dismissed the idea that he broke training camp to oversee death threats to Groves ahead of their scheduled March date. He said: “Some of the stuff about the threats against his life, whether he is saying through me or friends of mine, is something that is sincerely misplaced and I believe fabricated. If the police think you’re a threat to someone’s life then they at least speak to you about it, but they’ve not spoken to me about something like that. It is something he has made up to harm my image.
“How silly would it be to train for 12-weeks then sacrifice it with something like that? How could I jeopardise a fight at the last-minute with something that is so childish and ludicrous. It was pure lies to make themselves look better because fans were upset about losing money on travel and tickets. Unless he’s lying, he would feel he has to do something and to take it further. I feel the way people have assumed stuff about me is totally unjustified.
“I don’t mind if you use social media to criticise me or criticise my opponents. You can’t take it as a personal thing because it is just someone’s opinion, but you have to take it seriously if it is a serious accusation from someone public who is in his position. Then it is a very different matter.
“In regards to the British belt itself, I trust the Board to resolve the matter, as I did all along. It is also not the case that anyone has taken his belt, certainly not me, the Board decided to strip him, not me. I was fighting for the vacant belt, but what if Robin Reid had won? I didn’t want it to be like that, I wanted to win it from the champion. Being stripped of a title is a terrible thing for a fighter because they want to defend their titles.”
In mitigation, Groves can argue that he was using the British title to make a joke by holding it over a bin and comparing Anderson to the character Oscar The Grouch from Sesame Street. It struck most fans as a riff on Riddick Bowe chucking his WBC title into a bin. The message some people took from the photo is that the title was beneath Groves, which has caused consternation, as the British title is the oldest in the sport. Not to mention the fact that Groves was the recipient of a BBBoC award for sportsmanship after maintaining his composure during his feud with DeGale.
Still, the Lonsdale belt does bring out misty-eyed sentimentality amongst jaded boxing fans, especially as fighters have been severely injured while trying to win it, so it was a miscalculation.
“I did think it was distasteful,” stated Anderson. “It may have been a misplaced attempt at humour, which I don’t have a problem with and didn’t cause me distress, that’s his humour, but the way he treated the belt is hurtful to me and other fighters. It was a mistake to put the Lonsdale belt in the bin, however he meant it, but to throw racism at me off the back of that, it is obvious what that is about and it is disgusting.
“We’ve all had jibes at each other in the media, we’ve all had fans say stuff to both of us. I’m a real man who lives in the real world. I don’t spend my life on Twitter. People can come on and say I’m a poor boxer, not in Groves’s league or am going to get battered by Smith, that’s up to them and the beauty of Twitter. I don’t know how many fans on Twitter give me abuse, calling me ‘Jock’ and the rest, but if I started to argue back with people just because they like Groves or are from London then kicked up a stink myself I wouldn’t get through the day. Social media is good, but there are pitfalls to it.
“Then to have someone use it to say something against you as an entire family is ridiculous. It is a childish response after a juvenile joke photo. I haven’t got a personal thing against Groves. If it was personal, then I’d phone him and confront him over the issues, but this is a boxing thing, a sporting grievance.
“To think I’m staying up late at night thinking up campaigns against him is paranoia. You don’t want to be going down that route — I have a life outside boxing, so don’t have time for these campaigns on Twitter. It is sad that people who love the sport are seeing people in the sport act in this way, but I honestly feel that I’m not contributing to it, even though people will have an opinion when reading this, I’m just trying to give my side and then leave it at that.
“We’re adults. Let’s get this calmed down and get a grip of ourselves. If George feels there is something going on outside of boxing then he can give me a call and talk to me as a man. That’s how I was brought up by my dad. You confront your issues.
“Everyone has their own opinions. No doubt I’ll get abuse for this, George will get abuse for it, but I hope George doesn’t take this to heart because people on Twitter give us their opinion and it counts for nothing. I’m not trying to make myself look better or worse, I just feel he has been wrong in what he’s done and how he’s done it.
“It is downright dirty the way this has all turned out, and it is all off the back of George himself, a bit of stick is one thing, but this is beyond that. To call me a racist is not on. I see the accusations of footballers who are accused of racism and it disgusts me as a sportsman. It does look bad for the sport, definitely, there’s no place for racism or accusations of racism in sport. To get this resolved as simply as it could be would be good for the sport. I just want an error corrected.”
It is unfortunate that this feud has played out across Twitter and has cast a negative light on a sport that is frowned upon by many. However, David Haye’s press conference brawl with Dereck Chisora portrayed boxing in a bad light, then they eventually fought and shook on it. Anderson and Groves have already met in the ring, they are unlikely to meet up for a photo opportunity anytime soon, but it is high time to put it to bed. Anderson intends to pursue his legal options, but only as a final resort, a retraction from Groves would end any legal action.
“I’m not looking for anything more than that,” he said. “I’d be happy with that. The guy made a mistake, if he takes it back then why mention it again? I’d like to think it is that simple, but when pride is in the air it is rarely like that. Just admit that you were wrong. The thing with the belt was bad, but the boxing public loves you one minute and hates you the next. I’ll get some stick, but I just want to resolve this racist thing.”
Hopefully, with the Groves saga behind him, Anderson can focus on a fight against Paul Smith, which BoxingScene’s John Evans described as a battle between two of the most uncompromising men in the sport.
“Paul is a sportsman, he’s not said anything bad about me and I won’t say anything bad about him,” he said. “I won’t be his pal, but we’ll have civility. Now I’ve got to focus my attention on Smith, who is a formidable guy. I look forward to that because he’s a gentleman and conducts himself in a professional manner. Paul is a good spokesman for the sport, so to fight someone like that is a great thing for me. There’ll be sporting respect — that’s all you look for. People know that boxing isn’t known for its pleasantries, but civility has always been here in the sport.”
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