Aftermath: Groves vs Eubank Jr
George Groves defeated Chris Eubank Jr unanimously on points in a dramatic contest on Saturday night, despite suffering a final round shoulder injury. Chris Williamson, Shaun Brown, Callum Rudge, James Oddy and Colin Harris dissect the big fight talking points ...
BM: How did you see / score the fight? What's your assessment of both men's performances?
CW: Watching in the arena (lower tier, not ringside, so not best placed to score) I couldn’t make a case for giving Eubank more than three rounds. Groves impressed me with his far superior footwork and ability to keep the fight at range, generally foiling Eubank when he did get up close. Eubank didn’t seem to have any discernible game plan and Groves was wise to Eubank’s favoured left hook, often launched from much too far out and badly telegraphed. Groves cleverly circled to his left, away from this punch and perhaps into the line of sight for which Eubank was most compromised from, with blood trickling down the right side of his face. Both showed huge heart, as expected, Eubank in shipping so many stinging punches and Groves for his attitude when his left shoulder was badly injured in the final round.
SB: I scored it 116-112 to Groves. The Londoner had a game plan and executed it. He went in knowing that he was a level above Eubank Jr and that a combination of fundamentals, craftiness and experience would be too much. It wasn’t his greatest performance but it was enough to nullify a guy who fought incredibly raw and used his heart instead of his head. Eubank Jr obviously thought he could overwhelm Groves but he had zero answer for getting through the champion’s jab. Too much brawn, not enough brain. He was badly exposed at times.
CR: I scored the fight 116-112 to Groves. I thought he was exceptional, his judgement of range and composure under pressure were fantastic. I would go as far to say it was a career-defining performance for him. For Eubank there must’ve been some flashes of deja vu, in the early rounds in particular, where he was struggling to close the range on Groves and couldn’t land anything of note. Junior showed great heart and an iron chin but at times was made to look like a novice by the more experienced Groves.
JO: I didn't score the fight but I only had Eubank winning a handful of rounds. It's staggering to me that he and his camp (however much input they have) seemed to have no real plan aside from bum-rushing Groves. Groves is a fine boxer and anyone who knows any basics of boxing will have said you need a strategy to get inside his jab. Groves deserves credit for a professional and disciplined performance and also managing a terrible shoulder injury. True grit.
CH: I was very disappointed with Eubank Jr, even before the cut hampered him, as beforehand I thought he'd do enough to sneak the title away: I only gave him three rounds, turning in a 117-111 scorecard in favour of Groves. Groves was very impressive and had an answer to everything which came his way. I thought Eubank Jr's lack of a Plan B showed a degree of arrogance (which is different from self-belief) and his wild swings highlighted the desperation which was setting in. I did, however, think that both men showed a lot of heart, and I applaud Eubank Jr for the grit he showed in taking a beating and not giving up.
BM: Where next for Eubank Jr - can he come back from this and compete / win at world level?
CW: Eubank can win at world level against the right opponent, but it became clear that those of us who picked Eubank took too much from the Arthur Abraham and Avni Yildirim wins, which flattered the Brighton fighter whose flaws have now been revealed twice against well-schooled boxers with range and movement. Eubank talked about targeting Caleb Truax in the post-fight press conference, but word is that a James DeGale rematch is next for the IBF champ and I wouldn’t advise he goes anywhere near the ‘big four’ at middleweight in Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Billy Joe Saunders (again) and Daniel Jacobs.
SB: I would like to see Junior join up with a trainer and a stable and learn that not everything is about him. He has potential but in his two biggest fights he has been beaten and his biggest win is nowhere near what it takes to be a world champion, or one of the elite. Ideally I’d like to see him back down at middleweight. David Lemieux would be an excellent fight. I suspect though that he won’t rebuild, he will want to jump straight back in. He can win a world title but only with a trainer, and only if he listens, shuts up and does as he is told.
CR: I think he can, there has been a lot of ‘Monday Morning Quarterback-ing’ going on post fight with a lot of observers using this defeat as an excuse to stick the knife in to Eubank. Junior is an exceptionally gifted boxer but lacks the guile to find sustained success against top level ‘boxer-movers’. Many have said he should get a new trainer but at 28 it may be too late for that. Saying that, should he be matched right, he can win a version of the world title.
JO: He can and will come back I'm sure. He has the athleticism, chin, speed and intensity to overwhelm many a fighter. But he'll always struggle with an elite level boxer who has good straight shots. Junior lacks the fundamentals in footwork, defence and shot variety to impose the gifts he does have on them. I had hoped he could acquire them, but it appears that ship has sailed.
CH: I think he should go back to middleweight (in my mind he shouldn't have left in the first place), but the lack of world title shots there at the moment mean he'll probably stay at 12 stone. No matter which division he chooses, I'd have a few re-building fights, while working under the guidance of a trainer - perhaps over in the States. With a few fights, I'd take him the route of Commonwealth, European, Intercontinental titles and rebuild him for a title shot in the next 12-18 months when the title scene has changed a bit.
BM: Provided he is fit to fight, does Groves beat Jürgen Brähmer or Callum Smith? What do you see his career path being post-WBSS?
CW: Provided he’s fit, the number one seed remains the firm favourite for the tournament. As an intelligent and sensitive man with interests outside boxing I don’t see Groves being in the sport for too much longer and expect him to retire - like former nemesis Carl Froch - on top after one or two more lucrative top level fights.
SB: As I’ve said in the big fight predictions I picked Groves to win the whole thing. If he is fit and if the final can be put back he will face Callum Smith. A fascinating match-up. It's a bout that will feature two men who can box, not just one. Again I put that fight down to Groves’ jab but Smith can put his own reach to use and his body punching can’t be overlooked. Post-WBSS for Groves it will be big pay days, unifications and maybe even a trip to light heavyweight for a rematch with Badou Jack.
CR: I think Groves beats either fighter, and should he be 100 per cent I would pick him with confidence to comprehensively beat either man. Most will be expecting Callum Smith to be standing across from him come July and he won’t be fazed taking on the Liverpudlian. Judging Smith on his last fight, where he took a points win over Erik Skoglund, Groves will see plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. Smith was open to Skoglund’s jab all night and will not have faced a man of Groves’ punching power before. I think win or lose, Groves will retire having achieved everything he wanted to and making plenty of money along the way.
JO: Groves would stop Brähmer early on in a relative mismatch. Smith is a real 50/50 fight for me. I'd pick Groves but only if he fully recovers. I wouldn't be surprised to see him retire after the tournament if unification fights can't be agreed. He's had a tough career and would have nothing left to prove.
CH: Smith has been my pick to win the tournament but Groves is looking pretty hot right now and, injury aside, will fancy his chances of taking the top prize: I'd say it's a 50-50 match-up. No matter who wins, I don't see Groves boxing much more beyond the final; I think he's made a lot of money, achieved his goals, and can walk away from the sport as a rich young man with all his faculties in tact. I think if he does fight beyond the final he'll only be interested in a unification match, and DeGale being belt-less (at least for the moment) means the spiciest choice of fellow champ has gone.