By: Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
One of the more telling signs of an excellent fight is when hordes of boxing fans are unable to decisively pick a winner between them. On my own social media outlets, I’ve plenty of fans confidently picking Groves. I’ve also a plethora of folk sticking their money with Eubank Jr. And of course, the rest of the pack is flipping between each fighter at an alarming rate. George Groves-Chris Eubank Jr is a testament to the brilliance of the WBSS and an all British affair to boot, something which always generates additional hype over here. Here, I want to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each boxer in an attempt to convince or confuse myself as much as anybody else.
Seems incredible to think that Groves is only 29 doesn’t it? Groves has certainly been involved in a lot of high profile fights and has been in with some stellar names – all of whom will have aided in his growth and experience as a fighter. True, he’s lost to the two best but he wasn’t disgraced in those fights. His performance in the first Froch fight was remarkable and he was doing well in the second too, which is something people forget. I think a bit of complacency crept in and allowed Froch to land a stupendous right hand. The Badou Jack fight was close and he showed real resilience to comeback from the knockdown early on to even perform well in the later rounds; Groves is often accused of fading late on but this isn’t strictly true. At worst, he was competitive in those bouts. He also has an early win against DeGale too. Since stopping Chudinov for the WBA belt, Groves has looked more like the confident upstart he did against Froch in the build-up to the first fight. He’s back to trolling with his mind games and winding opponents up.
Groves has a superb jab; it isn’t quite as sharp as it was around the time of the Froch fights but it’s still class. In this particular fight, I think the jab is exactly what’s going to be key to stopping Jr. We saw against Saunders that when he couldn’t get off first, he didn’t really know what to do. If Groves can halt Jr’s rhythm early on then it’s going to be difficult for Jr to start letting his hands go. More the point, Groves’ jab is hard. He doesn’t fully step in behind it to make it a power shot but it’s powerful enough and hard to read; walking straight onto that jab is going to hurt. Martin Murray recently said in an interview that Groves hits harder than Golovkin, which tells you something. We all remember the first round knockdown against Froch but he hurt Froch numerous times in that fight. Groves can really bang, it’s just his herky-jerky styles at times trades power for awkwardness. I do think this can be a little energy sapping, especially if it’s combined with nervous energy which Groves has certainly exuded in the past. But I do think that world title belt finally being around his waist will erase any nerves or doubts he may have previously had.
His main preparation for this fight was Jamie Cox. I don’t rate Cox very highly but stylistically he was probably the best for Groves to choose if he had Jr in mind after. Cox isn’t a technical boxer; he powers forward and looks to close the distance, which is what Jr will look to do. His success doesn’t come from straight shots, instead it comes from his swift hooks and uppercuts. If he’s reduced to trying to land those from distance against Groves, he will be countered and countered hard just like Cox was. Let’s not get it twisted here though, in terms of raw boxing ability Groves isn’t as skilled as Saunders. He does however have much, much more power and does well at catching then countering on the inside with body work. I was concerned for Groves at the start of the Chudinov fight actually as Chudinov began really well, however Groves rallied and stopped Chudinov impressively. Given the tragic circumstances surrounding the Gutknecht fight I felt it was important for Groves to be in a situation where he’s piling on heaps of pressure again just to see how he dealt with it. Thankfully, he dealt with it just fine.
In short, the greater the physical distance between these two, the better for Groves who is the more proven boxer. We’ve seen that Groves isn’t afraid of a scrap on the inside and he’s capable of doing so but I don’t personally find this to be one of his genuine strengths. He does have a size and likely a physical edge over Jr but why take that risk? Jr’s style on the inside will impress judges as it’s industrious and fast. Groves needs to show patience, make his jab frustrate Jr and counter him on the way in. Jr leaves his chin exposed quite often when throwing and I question how he’ll react to being pressured.
Chris Eubank Jr
This weekend we get to see if the hype is real. The Eubanks talk a good game. No, actually they talk one of the best games going. Jr looks the part, talks the part and is very nearly walking the part. His only loss was to Saunders which was a competitive fight and went to the wire. Since then, Saunders’ stock has risen quite dramatically too. That said, I reject the notion that Jr ‘started slow’. Saunders gassed (like he has done so many times) and Jr still had plenty left. All the same, that was a terrific learning fight for Jr. He’s since responded with nothing but wins and they were largely fights he ought to have been taking prior to the Saunders fight. He’s looked much better since then and has actually improved his jab too. More to the point, the amount of rounds he’s lost in those eight fights since can surely be counted on one hand. He’s outworked, overawed and in the case of Yildrim absolutely devastated his opposition.
From a technical point of view I see a lot of work that needs doing for Jr, some of which I’ve explained in the section above. I don’t know that he’s a ‘smart’ fighter yet as he hasn’t (since Saunders) been in a fight that’s required adapting. I didn’t think Abraham would ask many questions of Jr and would be a bit of a showcase, which it was. Abraham isn’t the same fighter at 168 and as Zurdo showed, you can beat him simply with activity. Jr looked good here though and it’s a legitimate win. Perhaps he was a little clumsy in places and he did get caught a little but that’s to be expected. The Yildrim fight produced a stunning KO which has helped build this fight up perfectly. Yildrim foolishly went toe-to-toe and got outgunned big time. To me Jr has never been a power puncher and still isn’t but he proved he’s no feather fist either. I struggle to rate the Yildrim win though. He looked a bit of a unit but his career was based around scraping past Periban and some Euro level fights. It’s a respectable win for sure; it’ll evolve or devolve with time depending on Yildrim’s future career.
Jr has started to move his head more than earlier in his career too which will be key in this bout. If he can evaded Groves’ jab, get close and let his shots go before retreating to safety then he has a solid chance here. A lot of this will come down to chin for Jr. Spike wobbled him in the 3rd round of their fight but he recovered just fine. Groves will certainly find him at times but if Jr can take the power then this might well dishearten Groves. A disparaged Groves stuck against the ropes is a Groves that has had a ref jump in previously so there’s a clear objective for Jr to follow here. Although he will almost definitely weigh less than Groves he should have an advantage in hand speed. Assuming his conditioning allows him to fight for the whole round every round, then he could simply look to out-hustle Groves over the distance. Jr does have a tendency to fight in bursts which is what leads me to believe the stamina may nay be as infinite as advertised but if it is, well then there’s something to be exploited for sure.
Despite the lack of experience and size disparity, Jr CAN win this fight. He has a judge pleasing style and may well prove to have the athleticism required to outwork the boxer. Certainly if Groves can be dispirited and drained then the fight becomes Jr’s to lose but he cannot get complacent. Groves doesn’t have many late stoppages but his power will be there until the end.by