By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
Still on the path of rebuilding toward a 4th world title shot, George Groves won a convincing decision over the frustratingly tough Eduard Gutknecht at Wembley Arena on Friday night. The crowd were extremely reactive to Groves’ work, no doubt owing to the obligatory rendition of Sweet Caroline, and they helped cap of what was a very enjoyable card put forward by Cyclone promotions.
Groves understandably came into the fight as the favourite. Gutknecht has fallen short at world level previously; twice to Braehmer and once to Sukhotsky at Light Heavyweight and also to Robert Stieglitz at Super Middleweight. He does hold a victory over Golovkin as an amateur but it would seem his style hasn’t really progressed into the paid ranks quite so well. He isn’t a bad fighter by any means, just a little rudimentary in his approach and lacks the sharpness found at top level. We already know what Groves is about and he’s fresh off the back of a win against a slightly jaded but capable Martin Murray.
Groves started the fight off on the back foot, allowing Gutknecht to attack first. Groves was countering him with relative ease and generally seemed much quicker to the punch. Crucially, as Gutknecht tried to build anything from the jab, Groves began to counter that with his own jab and use that to orchestrate the tempo himself. Once a couple of jabs had landed, Groves would open up with a right hand that seemed incapable of missing the target. Gutknecht was still landing some shots himself; Groves would allow pressure onto him when his back was on the ropes and this enabled Gutknecht to unload somewhat. It must be said, Groves looked a little uncomfortable with this at first but was blocking with his gloves fairly effectively.
Although Gutknecht held the certain of the ring in the early stage, he wasn’t in control of the fight at all. Groves’ use of feints and subtle lateral movement prevented him from establishing any kind of rhythm. The way Groves has his left hand low makes him incredibly difficult to read. Add this to the fact he was switch hitting last night and you can see why Gutknecht has trouble. In the 4th round, Groves hurt Gutknecht with a right hand which forced him to back up. He circled around Groves and gave up the centre of the ring, though he did manage to recover by the end of the round so this saved him. One concern for Shane McGuigan may be the lack of killer instinct shown by Groves at this time. Over the next few rounds, the pattern more or less remain the same. Groves started to press the fight himself a little more; his jab was excellent all night in both off-setting Gutknecht and also in allowing Groves to begin to fire off combinations to really begin to damage the German. He showed no real interest in using head movement and when Groves did decide to go back on the back foot he merely plodded after him instead of cutting off the ring with any sort of malice. He was still landing the odd shot here and there, sometimes in a flurry when Groves had stopped moving and occasionally at the end of an exchange with Groves. In fact, in the 9th round he landed two really solid left hands on Groves. Maybe he didn’t respect Gutknecht’s power but certainly at the start Groves seemed easy enough to find (when Gutknecht did let his hands go that is).
Into the 10th and the damage done to Gutknecht’s right eye was very much apparent. The swelling was such that he can’t have been able to really see out of that eye. Given how one-sided the fight was, and this swelling not becoming evident, it seems incredibly careless to have sent him out for the last two rounds. Part of the problem is that he wasn’t shaken up again in the fight. The danger of this is that hurt and damage are two different things. Damage can be more difficult to see than the lucid visibility of pain.
All in all, a really brave effort from a fighter who has found his level once again. He showed a great chin and fantastic heart but Groves was faster, craftier and stronger all night. The cards were correct: 119-110, 119-109 X2 allto Groves. It’s a decent win for him – not a great one – but not one that in my mind should see him straight in at a world title shot. It looks like he’ll probably target Zeuge next for the WBA Regular belt, which is a very winnable fight.
The card put together by Cyclone was (for the vast majority of the night) well matched and enthralling. Johnny Garton against Geiboord Omier. I’ve seen Garton before at the York Hall in a fun scrap with Adam Battle (I remember it well as it was one of those magical cards where a prospect gets KO’d by an Eastern European journeyman) and this was easy on the eye too. Garton’s support made an impressive amount of noise throughout and he responded with a 59-55 points decision. Omier had his moments in the fight but was ultimately overpowered by Garton.
Do you recall that Heavyweight David Price recently beat with the exceptionally weird stance? That’s right, Perkovic was also in action on Friday night! He didn’t make it out for the 3rd round owing to a ‘hand injury’ but in reality had been bashed about a bit by Nick Webb. It was pretty ugly in places but gives Webb a continued platform to grow from.
It has to be said that Conrad Cummings was in something of an upset. He took on Ronny Mittag for the IBF Intercontinental Title at Middleweight. Cummings was very slow to start and his lack of head movement had walking onto a lot of Mittag’s jabs. Cummings displayed a better punch variety than Mittag and generally looked like he was doing the more hurtful work. He landed with an absolute peach of an uppercut in the 3rd round but he never really took complete control of the fight. Mittag was very game but with all due respect also quite a basic fighter. In the judge’s eyes however he managed to win a split decision (96-94 X 2 to Mittag and 96-94 to Cummings). Personally, I thought the card to Cummings was spot on but this was by no means a robbery.
In what was another really good fight, we had Paddy Gallagher take on Tamuka Mucha in a British title eliminator down at Welterweight. Gallagher started really well, landing the bigger shots and producing some great body work. He hurt Mucha in the 3rd which forced him to hold on. Even after this, Mucha was being peppered by Gallagher’s jab which he followed up right a right-hook or right-uppercut, both of which were causing issues for Mucha. He was still in the fight early on mind you but with slightly less impressive work. Gallagher was becoming visibly tired by the midway point and this dramatically improved Mucha’s confidence. He began to telegraph the follow-up right hands and began to establish himself with the double jab. The final round was mostly spent with both fighters trading until the bell rang. Mucha won and earned a majority decision with cards of 95-95 and 97-94 X 2
The last fight was the showcasing of Andrew Selby. He was in with Jake Bornea who was frankly overmatched here. You can clearly see Selby’s talent but this fight did nothing to tell us at which level this will go to. Still, this was only his 6th fight and will increase with levels over time. His handspeed was excellent as was his combination punching. What really impressed me was his control of distance. Bornea was either too far away to throw at all or too far to even land; when he did throw it was when Selby was near the ropes, so he’d just pivot away and counter excellently. One negative appears to be a lack of power. He landed on Bornea A LOT but didn’t seem to shake him at any point. He’d never been stopped prior to this so let’s not rule out an iron chin but still, he should have had him hurt in my opinion. It was eventually waved off in the 7th which was maybe a round too late. Whilst it was interesting to see Selby’s skills, it was also frustrating seeing him in with someone so far away from his level.by