By Keith Idec
George Groves gave Chris Eubank Jr. a championship boxing lesson Saturday night.
The experienced Groves out-boxed Eubank, held when necessary to neutralize his opponent’s power and won a unanimous decision in their much-anticipated, 12-round super middleweight title fight at a sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. London’s Groves won by comfortable margins on the scorecards of judges Howard Foster (117-112), Steve Gray (116-112) and Marcus McDonnell (115-113).
Eubank had difficulty dealing with Groves’ jab and couldn’t make the adjustments necessary to change the course of their sloppy fight. Too often, Eubank bent over, pressed forward, smothered himself and allowed Groves to tie him up.
The poised, smart Groves often made Eubank look like an amateur as he avoided his power shots and sometimes made Eubank pay for recklessly coming after him.
Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) defended his WBA super middleweight championship and won the IBO 168-pound title from Eubank (26-2, 20 KOs). Groves also advanced to the final of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament, scheduled for June 2 at O2 Arena in London.
“It was about who wanted it most, I think, and I obviously wanted it most,” said Groves, who confirmed that he suffered a shoulder injury during the 12th round. “The jab was landing correctly all night. When he had success, it was because I did something wrong. He was strong, he was aggressive, but that obviously wasn’t enough tonight.”
Groves, 29, will face the winner of the second semifinal between Germany’s Juergen Braehmer and England’s Callum Smith. Braehmer (49-3, 25 KOs) and Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) will fight February 24 in Nuremberg, Germany, for the second spot in the WBSS super middleweight final.
Eubank, 28, lost for the first time since England’s Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) beat him by split decision in their 12-round middleweight match in November 2014.
“I thought it was close,” Eubank said. “I thought I did enough in the later rounds to win the fight, but it was a close fight. And all credit to George. You know, this is all part of boxing. You win some and you lose some. Hopefully we can get a rematch. It was enough of a good fight to have another one.”
Eubank kept trying throughout the 12th round to hurt Groves with uppercuts and overhand rights, but Groves’ head movement made it too difficult.
Eubank spent the 11th round chasing Groves, desperately attempting to land the type of punishing punch he needed to change a fight he clearly was losing. He has little success, however, because Groves ducked, dodged and held to prevent getting hurt.
With blood flowing from the cut around his right eye, Eubank went to the canvas after missing badly with a wild right hand in the 10th round. Referee Michael Alexander correctly ruled it a slip caused by Eubank losing his balance.
“I had already hurt him before the cut,” Groves said. “He wasn’t dabbing away at the eye, so I don’t think it was [blurring] his vision. He was getting more wild as the fight goes on because he was having no success. Fundamentals of boxing, so the better man won on the night. Credit to Junior for getting through 12 rounds. I didn’t think he would. I hurt him a hell of a lot of times, but as I say, credit to him, he dug it out.”
An aggressive Eubank blasted Groves with a left hook early in the 10th round. Groves took that shot well and got back to pumping his jab.
Eubank and Groves landed punches following the bell to end the ninth round, which Groves largely controlled by out-boxing his wild-swinging opponent.
The final 30 seconds of the eighth round turned into intriguing action.
First Groves connected with an overhand right that backed up Eubank. Eubank then connected with a left hook that led to both fighters swinging wildly until the round ended.
Eubank’s bullish tactics didn’t work in the sixth round because he smothered himself and allowed Groves to tie him up. Groves continued to box and move well in that round.
Alexander warned Groves with 45 seconds remaining in the fifth round for repeatedly hitting Eubank behind the head. About 30 seconds later, Alexander warned Groves again for rough tactics near a corner.
Groves’ jab was a factor throughout the fourth round, but a lunging Eubank caught him with a short left late in the fourth that made Groves take cover and hold.
The heads of Groves and Eubank came together while both boxers were throwing right hands in the third round. That accidental clash opened a cut over Eubank’s right eye.
Groves landed a solid overhand right to the side of Eubank’s head early in the third round. Eubank clipped Groves with a left hook that shook Groves a little later in the third.
When Eubank attempted to press forward and attacked Groves late in the second round, Groves tied him up in a corner. Groves knocked Eubank off balance with a short left hand in the first half of the second round.
Groves gave Eubank trouble in the first round by working off his jab and not trading from close distances.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.