George Groves: ‘There’s Loads More Layers I Can Add.’
Stellar British and Commonwealth title wins over James DeGale and Paul Smith in 2011 established Hammersmith super-middleweight George Groves as one on British boxing’s brightest young lights.
However, injury has led to inactivity, but now restored to full health and fitness, the 24 year old Adam Booth managed starlet makes a welcome return to service this weekend, albeit at the HP Pavilion, San Jose, California, when he faces off with dangerous looking Mexican Francisco ‘Panchito’ Sierra. (BoxNation broadcast live from 1am, Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546)
Prior to his departure, Groves reflected on his recent difficulties with boxing writer Glynn Evans and mapped out the path that he believes will conclude with a world title over the next 12 months.
How do you reflect on your second round stoppage win over Paul Smith at Wembley last November? You appeared shaken by a right at the close of round one, before executing masterfully a round later.
I view it positively without a doubt. The shot I took didn’t register, genuinely didn’t affect me but I was irritated I’d made a silly mistake. I’m a notoriously slow starter, always make defensive mistakes first round before I hit my rhythm and clearly that’s something I need to try and stamp out.
The right hook I finished Paul with is a very dangerous shot to throw as it leaves you exposed but he left a gap and I pounced. I was very impressed he managed to get up, albeit a bit shakily. After that, it was just a case of not letting him hold and landing another clean one on his noggin. I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.
It was something of a surprise when you opted to team up with Frank Warren, manager of your nemesis James DeGale, last year. Explain!
Previously in my career I’d had the advantage of sailing through on David Haye’s slipstream, featuring on his big Hayemaker shows and profiting from the TV exposure they brought. David and Adam (Booth) always really looked after me. But when doors started to shut for David last year (following his defeat to Wladimir Klitschko), they also shut for me.
When Frank got wind I might be seeking a promoter, he showed a very strong desire to have me boxing under his banner. I had a few offers but Frank’s was easily the best.
You can’t blame him for thinking his man, James DeGale, would beat me cos everybody did! However, after I beat James, I think Frank started to seriously take note of me.
Clearly, because Frank has been involved with James longer, he has a better, personal relationship with James than with myself at the moment. That’s not a problem. In fact, it’s nice to see he’s a loyal man. But Frank knows boxing and he knows I have a bright future, in what is a very exciting weight division. If I keep winning I know I’ll have Frank’s backing.
You’ve made it clear you’re in no hurry to grant European champion DeGale a rematch, despite him having better marbles than you at the minute. Are you concerned you could be pressured into one before your choosing?
I’m only interested in looking after myself. If a rematch is to our benefit we’ll oblige, if it isn’t we won’t. For me, getting to the height of the division, fighting the elite, making continual, steady improvements, is what I’m about. I want to get on with my career.
James winning and retaining the European title doesn’t bother me at all. It keeps our return alive and makes for another huge, lucrative attraction. I’d certainly like the European title at some stage and mine and DeGale’s paths are definitely going to cross again at some point. Everyone saw how big it was with just British and Commonwealth belts at stake. Imagine how huge it could be if it was a world title unification with everything on the line.....if he ever gets that far!
We’re both doing our part. It’s good that James is improving, too. I want our third fight to be relatively competitive. I don’t want to be accused of abusing him!
In March, you pulled out injured on the brink of your highly anticipated British title rematch with Kenny Anderson, then, almost immediately signed to challenge Robert Stieglitz for the WBO title in Germany which naturally aroused suspicions. What’s your take?
About two and a half weeks before the Anderson fight, I picked up a back injury in sparring. We told nobody and had treatment every day but I couldn’t run or spar and eventually, unfortunately, I just ran out of days.
I was confident that I could beat Kenny Anderson without that training or sparring - I’d done some great work in the build up - but I had a fitness test and Adam pulled me out. I had just one CV session and that’s not ideal before a 12 round British title fight.
So I was on recovery before the Anderson fight but just didn’t have enough time for that date. Then, when I was offered the Stieglitz fight for the WBO title....what do you do? Hang around for someone you’ve already beaten by stoppage in six rounds or go for the world title?! No brainer!
Champion Stieglitz had lost just twice in 43 at the time and was defending his belt for the sixth time. What made you so confident that you could topple him over in (Erfurt) Germany?
I had to go to Germany because they won the purse bids but I knew I had the tools to not only beat Stieglitz over there but to stop him.
Robert’s a well accomplished fighter but I was very confident my style beats his. He throws a ridiculous volume of punches which would be very difficult to match and, even if you did, you won’t get the decision over there. But because he throws so many, he has to leave gaps and I know I’d capitalise.
What exactly happened to force your withdrawal?
I was preparing in Cyprus, had quality sparring, mountain runs, was getting my swims in, when I got a serious whack on the nose in sparring which dislocated the cartilage and forced me to pull out about three weeks before.
It was soul destroying, knowing all the hard work I’d put in had come to such an abrupt end. Because it was potentially the best payday of my career thus far, I’d been racking up the training expenses. Sitting back in my villa, in the dark, after the realisation, was the lowest ever moment of my boxing career.
But Stieglitz fights Arthur Abraham in August and, with me being mandatory, I think it’s realistic that me and Steiglitz still fight for the world title before this year is out.
In the interim, you’ve been training alongside David Haye for his epic demolition over Dereck Chisora. Inspirational?
Absolutely. Since pulling out the Stieglitz fight, I’ve done loads of sparring with David and other heavyweights plus some young frisky kids like Alan Higgins and Patrick Mendy who keep you sharp with all their nervous energy.
Dereck Chisora is a good fighter –what a chin – but David showed that when he approaches a fight correctly, he’s a great fighter. His shots were so hard, fast and crisp. David has this aura, this winning mentality which makes it really good to be around him.
What do you know of Saturday’s opponent Francisco Sierra and what are you hoping to get out of the contest?
I’ve seen a bit of footage but don’t know too much. He seems like he’ll let his hands go with spite and intent but I welcome that as it means he’ll leave a lot of target. Make him miss, make him pay.
I can’t wait to get over there for a bit of sunshine. It don’t f***ing stop raining here! This fight will provide me with crucial US TV exposure on Showtime and an opportunity to get my buzz back. I want to prove to Adam Booth that I can do the stuff in a fight, which I’ve been showing in the gym.
As I’ve only had a round and a half in over 14 months, the main thing I’d like would be to get some rounds. But I always have the intention of getting my opponent out of there as quickly as possible. I don’t intend artificially dragging it out.
The 168lb division has one of the deepest talent pools in the sport. How far do you believe you are from a punch-up with a Froch, Ward, Bute or Kessler?
Not that far. I always rise to the challenge in front of me. I’m very confident I’d have beaten Stieglitz. But, ideally, I’d prefer more fights to constantly drill in the improvements I know I’ve been making in the gym and, provided I’m kept active, there’s no need to rush. Already I can box long or trade but there’s loads more layers I can add. I intend becoming a well oiled machine that can chop and change for any opponent, have answers for all of ‘em.
Conquest to Headline BoxAcademy in WBO European Title Showdown with Ian Tims
Following his first round demolition of former British Cruiserweight Champion Leon Williams earlier this month, Tony Conquest gets the chance to further elevate his impressive fledging career by challenging Ian Tims for the vacant WBO European Cruiserweight championship at York Hall on Friday 7th September, as the feature contest on Queensberry Promotions’ latest BoxAcademy event.
Reigning Southern Area champion Conquest is harbouring British and subsequently world ambitions and if he can overcome Irishman Tims, in what’s sure to be an extremely tough learning fight, he will secure a WBO ranking along with the WBO European strap.
Francis Warren of Queensberry Promotions said “The WBO European Title is an option that we thought was worth exploring for this fight. We’re looking to really fast-track Tony and the chance of securing a WBO ranking that will come with the WBO European belt can get him that spring board to really kick-on through the ranks, which essentially is what the BoxAcademy format is all about.
“It’s a really good match up, Tony has made his intentions clear by blowing away Leon Williams in his last outing, whilst Ian Tims will come to fight and won his first 9 contests in a row before suffering his first loss in his last fight when he challenged for the EBU EU title.”
Also on the bill, 8-0 Erith prospect Lewis Pettit challenges Ian Bailey for the Southern Area Featherweight Championship. Pettit has definitely marked himself as one to watch with impressive performances in his first 8 contests, and will be looking to impress against Slough man Bailey and claim his first title.
Also in action are some of London’s hottest young prospects who are quickly gaining a wealth of experience in regular outings on the BoxAcademy bills. Charlie Hoy (2-0) looks to impress in a Super Flyweight contest, whilst Forest Hill Super Middleweight Darryll Williams(2-0) features in another 4 round contest.
Middleweight prospects John Dignum (1-0) and Tom Baker (2-0) also get the chance to impress, and Joey Taylor who scored an impressive stoppage win in his first outing last month, will be looking to put in another strong performance to his vocal group of Islington supporters.
Once again sponsors Rainham Steel will be providing a bonus of £1,000 to each of the fighters involved in the ‘Fight of the Night’. Both winner and loser of the contest will get the cash bonus in an innovative move that Queensberry are hoping will ensure the fans see their favourites in competitive contests.
Last time out the feature contest of the evening between Ashley Sexton and Paul Butler provided a barnstormer that electrified the atmosphere in a deafening York Hall. Butler prevailed on points but both men were deservedly handed their £1000 Fight of The Night Bonus in the ring by Rainham Steel chairman Bill Ives, as proceedings came to a close.
The action will be shown live and exclusive on BoxNation, Sky Ch. 437 and Virgin Ch. 546. Subscribe at www.boxnation.com
Groves v Sierra Live On BoxNation this Sunday morning
Hammersmith star George Groves clearly has no intention of taking the easy path to his goal of a major international super-middleweight title.
In his last three title starts, ‘The Saint’, 24, has seen off the formidable trio of Kenny Anderson (rsc6), James DeGale (pts12) and Paul Smith (rsc2). Now, following almost eight months out due to injuries, he shall concede height, reach, experience and home court when he returns in a potentially awkward eight rounder with Mexican banger Francisco Sierra tomorrow evening.
The chief support to the Interim WBC World Welterweight clash between Robert Guerrero and Selcuk Aydin at the HP Pavilion, San Jose, California shall be broadcast live in the UK on the undisputed home of TV boxing BoxNation (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546) starting at 1am, with Groves expected in the ring shortly after.
This is no ‘gimme’ for Groves. His opponent, known locally as ‘Panchito’, enters with a credible 25-5-1 slate and Groves shall need to be mindful that 22 of those victims capitulated inside the scheduled distance.
Now 24, the 6ft 1in Tepic, Nayarit native was only 17 when he joined the profession in September 2005 and the five reverses that soil his slate were inflicted in company that is arguably superior to what Groves has encountered thus far.
Future WBA interim light-middle king Rigoberto Alvarez (elder brother of ‘Canelo’) outscored ‘Panchito’ over 12 in April 2006, then stopped him in 10 of a return eight months later. Columbia’s highly dangerous two-weight IBF title challenger Edison Miranda routed Sierra inside a round in October 2009 and, at the bottom end of last year, Phoenix’s Jesus Gonzales (then 26-1) and 6ft 4in South African southpaw Thomas Oosthuizen (unbeaten in 17) both beat the Mexican on their home turf (pts 12 and rsc 10 respectively).
However, sandwiched between those blotches, Sierra can boast very credible successes over Esteban Camou (then 22-2, but retired in seven for the Mexican title), ex Carl Froch victim Henry Porras (33-7, taken out in round nine in his native Costa Rica), one time WBO welter boss Jose Luis Lopez (50-4-2, yet retired after six) and Chicago’s Don ‘Da Bomb’ George (unbeaten in 21 but dropped and mastered by Sierra on a technical decision after seven).
The Mexican also held Florida’s future NABF king Dyah Davis (18-2) to a 10 round draw in February 2011. Most recently, he relieved compatriot Rogelio Ruvelcuba of his 10 fight unbeaten tag, comprehensively outscoring him over six in early June.
Plenty of pedigree then, which makes the advertised odds of 12-1 on Groves triumphing faintly ridiculous. Nevertheless, I do expect the Brit to come through what should prove a gilt-edged tutorial in his ring education.
A former dual ABA champion and current British and Commonwealth belt holder at 12 stone, Groves is yet to experience defeat after 14 paid gigs and preserving that could be decisive when the action gets down and dirty against Sierra.
Hampered by injuries to his back then nose, that scuppered his scheduled re-sit with Anderson (March) and a WBO challenge to Robert Stieglitz (May), the west Londoner will doubtless be itching to make up lost ground and emphatically restore his standing as one of Britain’s brightest future world title hopes. However, given Senor Sierra’s daunting stoppage stats, he’ll need to guard against over eagerness. Manager-trainer Adam Booth’s role in keeping him calm and composed shall be crucial.
But Groves scoured the globe as an elite amateur and, having already performed in Germany and the US as a pro, he is unlikely to be fazed by unfamiliar surroundings. Even allowing for rust, he should have a little bit too much nous and class and I expect him to advance through the odd rocky patch and prevail by clear decision. Anything more, should be viewed as mightily impressive.
Live coverage on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) will start at 1am on Sunday morning. Join at www.boxnation.com