By Rick Reeno
It wasn't easy, but this past Saturday night British/Commonwealth super middleweight champion George Groves (15-0, 12KOs) fought in the United States for the second time in his career. He took part in a Showtime Extreme televised fight on the Robert Guerrero-Selcuk Aydin undercard at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Groves took on tough Mexican slugger Francisco Sierra (24-6-1, 22KOs).
In the third, a clash of heads opened up big cut around the right eye of Groves. In the sixth, a huge counter hook sent Sierra down on his back. Sierra beat the count, but Groves quickly unloaded with hard combinations which forced Sierra's corner to throw in the towel.
After the fight was over, BoxingScene.com spoke with Groves in his dressing room.
BoxingScene.com: Was he a little tougher than you expected?
Groves: He's exactly what I expected. We asked [Golden Boy matchmaker] Robert Diaz for a real solid opponent, a tough test and Francisco Sierra definitely was. He had a good record, a strong guy, he knows how to throw a punch, takes a good shot and he proved that tonight I think.
BoxingScene.com: Early on he was taking your shots pretty well. Were you saying to yourself 'this might be a long night?'
Groves: I never planned to get him out of there early because he has a [good chin] and the only time he's been stopped has been late [in the fight]. It was about breaking him down methodically and not tearing right into him. The first couple of rounds was just taking the distance off him and totally making him miss completely.
I've always been the sort of fighter who is easily drawn in into a trade up. I love to throw a punch, so there were times were I made risky decisions by throwing punches and taking punches that I necessary didn't have to take. But I knew that slowing him down, that once the shots started landing it wasn't hard to close the show.
In the sixth round I think, a big shot went in. And I can sort of feel him half slumped. I said to myself 'do I jump on him now or do I give him a couple of seconds [to feel him out]' and obviously I made the right decision.
BoxingScene.com: The cut appeared to have come from a clash of heads?
Groves: I backed into the ropes and I couldn't step back and I couldn't adjust. I could see his head coming. I tried to slip outside of it and it ended up grazing the side of my face. I've had one fight before where I was cut, so I had to draw on that experience of boxing with blood in your eye. But there was no way that I was going to let that fight get stopped on a cut. In the back of your mind you have that idea that if you catch him - you probably have to stop him.
BoxingScene.com: This was your second fight in the States, how was it?
Groves: It was brilliant. I love it out here. I made a few mistakes the first time I came out here. But you learn things and then you adjust to fighting in different time zones and out here is a different culture of boxing. Generally the fighters are better [here].
There are loads of room for improvement, but for me the main thing was to come out here, get some solid rounds under my belt and did a job properly and hopefully win over some support. This fighter had some support but I think in the end I won over a few fans and Golden Boy were very impressed and that was my main objective.
BoxingScene.com: As [trainer] Adam [Booth] told me, your fight for September 14th is off the table because of the cut. How far does this set you back?
Groves: Ill get back [to the UK] and seek medical advice and see how it goes. I've had substantial time out of the ring and I'm not happy with that, [due to] injury so it wasn't my fault. It feels good to be back. I'm going to keep myself in good shape. And as soon as the cut heals I'll be back in the gym sparring and look to fight as soon as possible. If there is nothing in the UK, then maybe I'll come out here.
BoxingScene.com: Before the fight you said Sierra was better than Kenny Anderson. Do you still believe that after being in the ring with [Sierra]?
Groves: Without a shadow of a doubt, he's much, much tougher. Sierra and Anderson go in the ring, I don't think Anderson would last halfway through the fight. With a big guy like that, who lets his hands go and has a much longer reach than Anderson, if you're not going to move your head - you're going to pay the price. He would have taken poor Anderson apart.
BoxingScene.com: A lot of your past opponents still bring you up. Your name is still linked to James DeGale. He does mention you. Would you consider that fight again, or are you past fighting DeGale at this point?
Groves: I think I'm one of those fighters, I think guys must look at me and go 'he ain't that good, how does he keep winning? He has a bad style. He looks vulnerable. He doesn't have a good chin. He's easy to hit.' But every time I get in the ring I seem to win and I always find an answer. It will take a lot to beat me.
We don't have the depth of talent in the super middleweight division that you have out here. Back home, me and Degale sort of stormed through the rankings and met each other for the British title and I've done a job on him. He's gone and won a European title, so he's still in the frame. Other than that, I'm looking at some real good fights. I'm ready for that.
What would be ideal is to get real tough opponents like Sierra for the next six to twelve months, more fights like that. Because I know how to do it, I know how approach these fights and win. But its about doing it 100% correct. I made some mistakes tonight. It wasn't a perfect performance and I'm capable of making those adjustments.