By Jake Donovan
George Groves refuses to let another opportunity slip through his fingertips.
The unbeaten super middleweight contender was on the verge of his first major title shot, only to have to withdraw from his scheduled bout with then-defending titlist Robert Stieglitz last May.
Groves once again has a title fight on this radar, providing he gets past Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye on March 16 at Wembley Arena in London. The bout serves as the chief support to the lightweight unification bout between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez.
The timing of the fight is perfect for his future plans, as he will immediately set his sights on the winner of the rematch between Stieglitz and Arthur Abraham, scheduled for one week later on March 23.
“With me being number one in the WBO that is the direction that I’m going in and I’ve got to keep an eye on these guys as I’ll be looking to fight the winner next,” said Groves.
“I’m focused on the fight in hand first, though, against Ndiaye and winning the European title, but once I come through that I want to be in Germany to see Abraham against Stieglitz up close.”
The canceled fight with Stieglitz was one of three fights from which Groves had to withdraw due to injury in a disappointing 2012 campaign. He was twice scheduled for a rematch with domestic rival Stephen Anderson, scheduled for last March (back injury) and then again for September (cut suffered in July win over Francisco Sierra).
The disappointing year came after carrying such high hopes following his well-publicized points May ’11 win over James DeGale in a matchup of unbeaten prospects. The win was followed with a 2nd round knockout over Paul Smith to cap a great 2011 run, only for a series of disappointments to surface last year.
Perhaps the bitterest pill to swallow was watching Stieglitz go on to face Abraham, who scored a close but clear unanimous decision to win the title as part of a huge comeback year. Groves’ 2012 run wasn’t quite as memorable, though ended on a positive note.
“I was gutted when I couldn’t take on Stieglitz last year as I’m confident I would have beaten him as Abraham went on to do and I’d be the world champion now, but my time will come.
“Last year was a tough one with injuries although I got in two valuable learning fights, a good win in America that enhanced my reputation and fan base and then probably the best win of my career over the experienced Glen Johnson in December.”
All focus is now on Ndiaye (22-1, 13KO), who enters the fight riding a nine-fight win streak, all of which has taken place in his adopted home country of Italy. The lone loss of Ndiaye’s career also coincides with his lone road trip, dropping a split decision against Lolenga Mock in Denmark nearly five years ago.
Groves plans to allow that pattern to hold true, as part of what believes will be a breakthrough 2013 campaign.
“This is a great start to the year for me with a European title fight and then a potential world title fight next. The super-middleweight division is stacked with talent and I’m eager to get in the mix.”
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, Records Keeper for Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox