Groves aims to avoid upset: WBSS super middleweight preview
This week the focus of the World Boxing Super Series turns to the third of the super middleweight quarter-finals, as England's George Groves and Jamie Cox clash in London, with Chris Eubank Jr awaiting the victor. Jack Laidler previews this and the other remaining 168lbs quarter-final...
The WBSS has created huge excitement around the boxing world and is a fantastic addition to an already stellar year for the sport.
The super middleweight tournament may not have quite generated the same intense buzz as the cruiserweight version but, impressively, of the eight-man line-up, four of Boxing Monthly's current top ten super middles are present - even if our top two at the time of writing - James DeGale and Gilberto Ramirez - are absent.
The WBSS seeding system, which saw the top seeds pick their opponents, made for gripping TV and no doubt the two tournaments will provide many moments to remember.
The first super-middleweight showdown on 16 September saw one of the pre-tournament favourites, England's Callum Smith, win a hard-fought points decision against Sweden's Erik Skoglund in Liverpool. Then, on 7 October, Chris Eubank Jr travelled to Stuttgart and crushed Avni Yildirim in three rounds to book his semi-final place.
14 October: George Groves (26-3) vs Jamie Cox (23-0) - London, England
As the number 1 seed Groves was first to select his opponent. In a somewhat surprising move he opted for his fellow countryman, the unbeaten Cox. As part of his reasoning for doing so, Groves pointed out that should the other favourites (Eubank Jr and Smith) win their respective fights, he would face British fighters in every round of the competition and not need to fight away from home.
Groves is tried and tested at world level and has experienced huge occasions. His pair of stoppage defeats to Carl Froch and a split decision loss to Badou Jack have now been firmly put behind him after he won the WBA 'Super' title in May courtesy of an impressive stoppage of tough guy Fedor Chudinov.
Although boasting an unbeaten record, Cox is still unproven above domestic level. After claiming victory against the then unbeaten Obodai Sai for the Commonwealth title, Cox only fought twice more in the next three-and-a-half years. In all, since June 2013 he has only fought seven times against limited opposition.
Although the undefeated Cox brings with him an air of mystery, he will likely find the quality of an elite world champion such as Groves too much to handle. Look for Groves to win by a late stoppage.
27 October: Jürgen Brähmer (48-3) vs Robert Brant (22-0) - Schwerin, Germany
This is possibly the hardest fight to call out of all the quarter-finals. If it came purely down to experience then Brähmer would win hands down. In his 51-fight career the German has held both the WBA and WBO titles up at light-heavyweight. After his defeat to Hugo Garay in 2008, Brähmer went unbeaten for seven years, winning nine world title bouts.
Brant, on the other hand, is completely untested. All of his 22 wins have come against less than stellar opposition. His last three opponents had a combined record of 52-21-4.
However, Brant - who is moving up from middleweight - is only 26 and brings with him confidence. He has stopped his last four opponents and in Brähmer, he faces a man that is coming off a damaging defeat to Nathan Cleverly. Brähmer was made to look sluggish against the fresher Welshman and eventually withdrew in the sixth, claiming a shoulder injury in what was the first stoppage defeat of his career.
At 38 years of age there is a feeling Brähmer is perhaps past his best. Nevertheless, if Brant is merely the owner of a padded record he will be dealt with swiftly by the former champion. Should Brähmer struggle at the lower weight against the younger man he may have a difficult night's work ahead. Nevertheless, I see Brähmer winning by late stoppage.