By Terence Dooley
George Groves is back on the grind after his May 21st British and Commonwealth title annexing win over James DeGale at London's O2 Arena. Groves prevailed by scores of 115-115 and two lots of 115-114, picking up DeGale's British crown in the process. The 23-year-old is now looking towards European or international competition as he plots his next move.
“Things have been going well. Had a nice little break, a holiday and I am back in training now ticking over. Obviously I have got the two titles to defend but there are plenty of options out there for me. Maybe a European guy or a world ranked guy but there's been no real discussions with [manager and trainer] Adam [Booth] about anything yet. Adam just wanted me back in the gym and improving for that next step,” said Groves when speaking to me over the phone.
Adding, “There isn't anyone left domestically, really, as I've beaten everyone there is to beat so we're looking at something like that.”
Groves, 13-0 (10), used his boxing skills to negate and outmanoeuvre the 2008 Olympic gold medallist. Putting days, weeks and months of gym preparation together on the night. “I am very happy with the performance,” he enthused.
“We had a game plan that worked to a tee. I was never going to go in there to try and destroy James DeGale that night. It was about winning the rounds even if I only won them by a single punch. The advice at the end of each round was not to get greedy or get drunk on my success. Just to make sure that I didn't get carried away or open to any shots.
“People who wanted me to have a slugfest or go down that road, especially James DeGale and his team, were hoping that I would rush into shots but we boxed to a plan. It was about showing the British boxing crowd that I can box, I have skills, can punch hard, fast and sharp from long range, and have a decent defence.”
Indeed, the Hammersmith-based boxer believes that his refusal to rise to his rival's pre-fight ribbing unnerved James. Groves is a firm believer in scoring points before the first bell, with the groundwork of his win put into play during the ballyhoo preceding the bout.
“James is a person who forever needs reassurance,” he opined. “In that respect not knowing what I was going to do affected him. Instead of working out what I was going to do and having a game plan for it, or not knowing what I was going to do and working it out on the night with a Plan A, B, C and D, I think him and his team put their heads in the sand. If you had asked them to elaborate on what they were going to do they would have folded pretty quickly, as we found out on the night.
“James was clueless. We knew that. We knew this would either lead to him not punching, freezing, or charging in letting his hands go. On the night he did a bit of both. A lot of it was pressure but he was just following me around the ring, not doing anything or throwing punches. Or he would feel he had me on the ropes and would let everything go even though nothing was landing and I was spinning off the ropes.”
Both men suffered cuts, the heads bumped often and badly. Groves also accused his former amateur rival of making free use of his elbows. George was left with gashes near his eyes and on his forehead but refused to show out to referee Howard Foster.
“The cuts came quite late in the fight. It is a difficult thing to handle the whole process. This fight was about staying calm, staying focussed. Usually a young fighter will get cut and then panic sets in. I didn't panic, didn't get hurt and didn't check the cut or rub blood into my eyes,” he recalled.
“James was dirty with the head, pushing my head down and using the elbows. In his previous fights he has done that well. We had to deal with that. A southpaw boxing an orthodox means there is a bit of heads rubbing in, a bit of stepping on the front foot and you just have to deal with that and get on with the job at hand.
“The blood came from my forehead and into my eyes, the temptation was to rub at it but I was told not to alert the referee or give signals that it was a problem. Getting stopped on a cut was the last thing I wanted to happen.”
DeGale meandered through the early rounds, perhaps confident that Groves would lapse into toe-to-toe action. 'Chunky' never quite managed to cut the ring down effectively. This ineffective movement cost him dear throughout the fight.
“He cut the ring down a bit but it was to no avail,” countered 'Saint' George. “The main thing I would like to come out of this fight is that people don't think about what James didn't do and look instead at what I didn't allow him to do. There is a reason why he couldn't do the things he stated he would do – I took it all away from him.
“My front foot was never in a position where he could line up a punch so he didn't throw the punches. I threw hard, fast counters back at him and that is tough for a fighter to deal with. Especially a fighter like DeGale who says he is going to knock guys out in one or four rounds and has a trainer [Jim McDonnell] who is talking the same way, bouncing out his seat to make a bet on the win during the press conference.
“They talked with confidence before the fight. When things weren't going his way there wasn't the help from the corner. They weren't giving him the right instructions. It wasn't working for him. Panic set in and although he was trying to chase the fight there was no logic, no ideas.”
Jim McDonnell recently told Boxingscene's John Evans that his man was undone by poor officiating – exploding when recalling the scoring and advocating earphones for judges to prevent them from being swayed by the crowd. The former world title challenger also charged Booth with bringing the game into disrepute due to Adam throwing a 'wanker' sign in his direction as the result came in. Groves shrugged off Jim's perspective.
“You can talk to someone until you're blue in the face but if they're not going to listen then they'll never take anything in. Jimmy contradicts himself throughout,” says Groves as talk turned to Jim's quotes. “He is the one who needs to go away and have a think about things because he's coming off badly in this situation.
“His comments are ridiculous, they are deluded. He is accusing Adam of bringing the sport into disrepute then making comments about the judges losing concentration because of the crowd and questioning the scoring.
“It is a case where you'd get bored of arguing with him because he doesn't listen to reason or look at facts. At this stage they need to go away and concentrate on why they lost instead of just making excuses. From a neutral point of view you can see that they made a lot of mistakes, let DeGale down in a big way and the only way they'll progress is by admitting that.
“James has been built up as a fighter by being given a confidence that isn't really there, it is not belief. At some point he was going to come across someone decent and the problems would have always been there because of this false confidence.”
Groves, however, insists that his rival can come back strong as long as he takes onboard the lessons of defeat. Saying, “He is lucky it happened now when he's only eleven fights into his career. He has shown enough to suggest that he can go away, rebuild and come back but if he carries on down the path they're on then they are going to have problems. It shows that they are not thinking clearly.”
Although it was only a domestic and Commonwealth title fight, the match-up attracted plenty of interest – sharing top billing on a Sky PPV show. With the win came the Capital bragging rights as well as plenty of attention from the man on the street.
“I get stopped a lot,” marvelled Groves. “It is really quite nice to have people stopping me to have photos taken and to say, 'Well done'. It was my highest profile fight, much bigger than I thought and my Twitter followers went up overnight. It is really impressive, really humbling and makes me really happy.”
Read John Evans’s exclusive and exhaustive interview with Jim McDonnell by clinking this link:
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