by Cliff Rold
Going into the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament, it looked like a strong possibility that this could come down to a UK invitational plus one.
That’s just what we’ve got.
We know at least one man in the final will hail from there. That will be decided Saturday in what looks like an excellent tussle. George Groves was a hard luck case, falling short twice against Carl Froch and then again against Badou Jack before finally snagging a major title last May.
In this semi-final match, he will face the son of one of the men who made super middleweight a place to be. Chris Eubank Sr. had a long run as the WBO champion in the 90s, engaging in classic encounters with Michael Watson and Nigel Benn (if not quite as classic as their middleweight first) along the way.
Chris Eubank Jr. can continue the family tradition. Will he?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBA super middleweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 167 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
Record: 27-3, 20 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #2 (TBRB, ESPN, Ring), #3 (BoxRec), #4 (Boxing Monthly)
Record in Title Fights: 2-3, 2 KO, 2 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 117-8-3 (.914)
WBSS Seed: 1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: James DeGale MD12; Glen Johnson UD12; Carl Froch TKO by 9, TKO by 8; Badou Jack L12; Fedor Chudinov TKO6
Chris Eubank Jr.
Title: IBO super middleweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 167 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Brighton, Sussex, United Kingdom
Record: 26-1, 21 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxRec), #3 (TBRB, Boxing Monthly), #4 (Ring), #5 (ESPN)
Record in Title Fights: 2-0, 2 KO in interim title fights
Last Five Opponents: 109-8-1 (.936)
WBSS Seed: 3
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Billy Joe Saunders L12; Arthur Abraham UD12
The Case for Groves: While their ages are close, Groves is the more experienced professional. Not all of that experience has been in victory but he’s rebounded from the tough losses and found his way back to the big stage. He can be a clever boxer and has heavy hands. He dropped Carl Froch hard; that’s a short list. Groves works well in combination and will likely touch Eubank more than any opponent since Eubank’s lone loss to Billy Joe Saunders. Groves has to give Eubank resistance and make him think. That can happen if he establishes his jab and keeps Eubank from getting into an offensive rhythm. When the challenger gets on a roll, he is dangerous. Groves has to give his offense pause. To do that for twelve rounds, Groves has to find a way to relax. He can sometimes be a ball of nervous energy and he may need his legs for all twelve rounds.
The Case for Eubank: Eubank has done nothing but continue to improve and grow since the loss to Saunders. In his wins over Arthur Abraham and in the tournament opener, Eubank Avni Yildirim, he showed off talent, technique, and a comfort level that allowed for some showmanship. He is fast, athletic, and has developed an excellent uppercut. Groves is hittable and his uppercut is the sort of shot that can lands quick and sudden. Groves can be dropped and has been stopped. Against Jack, Groves came off the floor and made a hard go at it. He came up short. Even if Eubank can’t stop him, a knockdown or two could make a huge difference on the scorecards. His body attack will be a big weapon in setting up his chances.
This is a tough fight to pick. For all his improvement, Groves is the best opponent Eubank has faced since Saunders. Then again, Eubank is the most talented opponent Groves has faced since Jack. What level of fighter will Eubank be? Groves has shown he can handle fighters just outside the top of his class; guys like Chudinov or Martin Murray. Outside an early career win over DeGale, he’s come up short beyond that. Eubank has yet to show he belongs. The thinking here is he does this weekend. Eubank appears a little quicker and, while less experienced, he also doesn’t have as much battle wear. Eubank is the pick to advance to the final.
Rold Picks 2018: 2-1
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]