Saints & Sinners
Photo Credits: Reuters
Saint George Groves derails the hype train of Chris Eubank Jr to win the first semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Super Middleweight Tournament, yet leaves his own participation in doubt with a potentially serious injury.
What can I say?
The only thing more brutal than Chris NextGen Eubank’s boxing technique last night was Prince Naseem Hamed’s commentary.
Eubank was utterly exposed in his first step outside of British domestic level competition against WBA Super Middleweight Super Champion Saint George Groves in the House That Hatton Built, the Manchester Arena.
It was a virtual car crash from start to finish with sparing moments of inaction where Eubank looked clueless and Groves was more than happy to sit back in his trademark wide-legged stance waiting for Eubank to rush in predictably, throwing wild shots.
Make no mistake, Eubank did land on occasion, he landed at least four lead left hooks on the jaw of Groves forcing the champion to retreat against the ropes, however, Eubank lunged in immediately after smothering his own work.
As the fight wore on even those assaults usually led to Groves pivoting inside or outside to escape leaving Junior to tumble to the floor or into and through the ropes as he did on several occasions due to his lack of balance.
More often than not Eubank simply just missed and missed and missed.
I have written fairly thorough breakdowns of the two WBSS Cruiserweight semifinal bouts, detailing the effective tactics of each man and his corner as well as picking out individual particularly telling moments of action.
For Groves vs Eubank that seems to be less necessary as each round was essentially the same, Eubank launching a wild largely ineffectual attack with no clear Plan A and as the fight slipped away definitely no Plan B.
Taking The Bookies to the Cleaners
The popular consensus was that Eubank was too fast, too athletic and according to Chris Eubank Sr., Junior had too much Spirit… whatever that is supposed to mean.
In any case, Junior brought his lightly regarded IBO belt into the WBSS tournament that he won last year off of Australian Renold Quinlan in an underwhelming performance. However, Junior seemed to silence a lot of doubters when he knocked out the tough but unproven Turk Avni Yildirim in October in just three rounds in the first quarterfinal of the WBSS.
George Groves has had a longer and harder road to an opportunity like entering the WBSS. After a close points loss to Badou Jack in September 2015 Groves thought about calling it a day. He paused, changed camps from Paddy Fitzpatrick to working with Shane McGuigan, son of Irish boxing legend Barry McGuigan and it paid dividends. Groves rattled off 5 straight wins on the spin culminating in achieving his dream, winning the WBA title in a gutsy and emotional fight.
Groves was seeded #1 in the WBSS and picked Jamie Cox, a solid domestic level fighter who had never been stopped, however, was seen as the weakest draw in the tournament. Groves showed excellent ring IQ setting traps for Cox who walked on to multiple body shots and a hard right shovel-hook put Cox down for good in the 4th the week after Junior’s emphatic stoppage win.
It was an ideal setup.
Two top drawing British fighters would go in to face each other in the semis each with a stoppage in their previous bout, both seen as probably the two most skilled fighters in the whole Super Middleweight tournament.
As mentioned above, given the matchup Eubank Jr. was favoured largely based on intangibles.
They could not have been more wrong.
It was thought that Eubank would have to come out guns blazing, with volume and aggression to wear down Groves who had a suspect gas tank.
The first round was quite cagey in fact, each man landed 1-2s in the first round, however, Groves seemed to get the better as Junior bit on almost all of Groves’ feints from round two on! In round two Eubank’s poor quality already became clear, as he abandoned any semblance of a game plan and began lunging at Groves, mostly with a lead left hook, on one occasion Groves seemed to score a knockdown as Junior’s knee touched the canvas.
Junior had once again charged in, is some kind of half-squat and ate a short left straight from Groves that buckled Junior’s legs already bent in that awkward stance.
Photo Credits: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Unfortunately, referee Michael Alexander missed it, caught as he was in the maelstrom of action.
Photo Credits: PA Wire
Things got worse for Junior as he sustained a bad cut over his right eye in round 3, he brought the injury on himself as he flailed against Groves and the two collided heads. Eubank got the worst of it and the cut would cause him problems throughout the fight as he said in the post-fight interview.
The middle rounds were full of sloppy yet entertaining action as Eubank lunged again and again desperately, wildly swinging at Groves. The sixth round was one of Groves’ best, he had timed Junior’s lunges well by this point and made Eubank walk onto to several hard shots.
Groves was drug into the melee frequently, however, he was catching junior’s shots on his gloves well and always managed to pivot and escape or tie Eubank up and control him.
Groves came in roughly a stone heavier than Junior at 13st 2lb or approximately 83.6 Kg, 184 pounds. The extra size aided Groves as he was never outmuscled on the inside and absorbed every haymaker Junior was lucky enough to land.
Alexander missed many opportunities, in my opinion, to call Junior on his repeated rabbit punching, punching on the break, punching in the back of the head and headbutts though Junior came up on the short end of much of those.
Photo Credits: News Group Newspapers Ltd
The key for Shane McGuigan was to use the jab to halt Junior’s forward aggression and with the jab extended measure Eubank for the right, McGuigan also counted on his man being more mobile than anyone, certainly the Eubanks expected. Here junior’s lack of ring IQ continued to betray him as well, he was completely unable to cut the ring off to halt Groves’ movement instead somnambulistically wandering around following Groves.
The fighting ground on into the championship rounds, there was as much blood on ref Michael Alexander as Eubank from having to constantly separate the two combatants. Eubank seemed the one to tire, not Groves as he grew more desperate and sloppy.
Photo Credits: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Then in round 10 during another wild exchange Groves again caught Eubank and seemed to score another knockdown that Alexander missed in spite of or perhaps because of having to constantly get between the two and separate them while Eubank attempted to mug Groves.
By the 11th round, I had Groves ahead by 10 whole rounds and I struggled to give Junior the 3rd based on work rate alone. Richie Woodhall who provided commentary on ITV 4 had Groves ahead 9 rounds to 2 so I felt vindicated.
The bell rang for the twelfth round and Groves had the fight well and truly won.
He had shattered the mystique of Chris Eubank Jr., he was nothing like his father after all.
Then Groves seemed to suddenly labour. He threw a left hook that glanced awkwardly over Junior’s shoulder and back, just then Groves bent at the waist visibly hurt. The rest of the fight he was in near full retreat, a one-armed man fending off Junior’s wild barrage, fascinatingly as Groves dipped, slipped and rolled out of the way of most of Junior’s punches Groves still managed to land a few tidy right hooks to the body and uppercuts to Junior’s chin.
The bell rang signalling the end of this drunken pub brawl. Groves had survived the last onslaught indicating he likely won by a country mile.
Photo Credits: Mark Robinson
In the end, I had the bout 118-110 for Groves. Groves lost the 12th round due to Junior’s unrelenting pressure, however, Groves was handicapped by that point.
The official cards were all over the road:
Howard John Foster 117-112, Groves. Steve Gray 116-112, Groves. Marcus McDonnell 115-113, Groves.
The McDonnell scorecard is the worst of a bad lot, though in the end, the right man won. Had the two potential knockdowns been scored or points deducted for Junior’s numerous fouls the scores would be more reflective of the dominance Groves displayed.
In the post-fight Naseem Hamed was absolutely savage, arguing that Junior should stick to Instagram highlight videos full time or quit the sport altogether, contending that Junior was too arrogant, too eccentric and too oblivious to recognize his faults and work on them like Groves had done moving to Shane McGuigan… Groves had become more mobile, put punches together better, grew more accurate and patient and stopped fighting with his chin as much - though you can never completely take the dog out of the boy from Hammersmith.
Groves does not cut an imposing figure, the ginger with a receding hairline does not hang out with movie stars and party with celebs, he does not make a show of himself nor live on social media. Groves has quietly, patiently worked on his craft along with one of the best trainers in the world and in doing so has authored one of the best performances of his career.
In the 12th round, Groves’ left arm was hanging by his side visibly damaged and the preliminary diagnosis is a separated shoulder, though Team Groves is keeping mum, saying only that the injury is “not that serious.”
Shoulder separation usually results from a fall or impact directly against the shoulder, this can cause damage to the acromioclavicular joint (AC). Ironically the shoulder joint is not actually involved but the ligaments that attach the collarbone to the shoulder blade. Often surgery is not necessary and can be treated with ice packs and therapy once the ligaments have healed. That could take 6-8 weeks or more for that process to play out and by that time Groves would have to already be in camp to face the winner of next week’s semi-final between Juergen Braehmer and Callum Smith.
The worst possible scenario and the one that I fear is that Groves has a labral tear or rotator cuff tear. The Labrum is connective tissue that holds the head of the humerus into the shoulder socket, just as bad would be a complete rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is composed of four tendons connected to the muscles that allow you to lift your arm, turn a doorknob, essentially do anything. Either injury can be detected via MRI and both injuries are severe and based solely on what I saw in Groves’ body language I fear this may be the case.
Either injury would require surgery and would mean he would miss 9-12 months of training.
In other words, not only would Groves miss out on the WBSS final, his entire career would be affected and that left arm would likely never be the same even with the successful repair.
Should the worse case scenario unfold that would mean according to reports coming out this morning that Chris Eubank Jr would find himself in the final against next Saturday's winner.
Quite the turn of events and very unfortunate for Groves who would go into the final less than 100% regardless.
For Junior, who knows. Hopefully, he takes a long hard look in the mirror and completely reevaluates what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Should he luck into a spot in the final there is no reason judging by his performance against Groves that massive Super Middleweight Callum Smith or grizzled veteran Juergen Braehmer have much to fear.