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Back “The Saint” to March on to the Semis

The race for the inaugural super-middleweight Muhammad Ali Trophy is beginning to feel decidedly English.

Highly-rated Liverpudlian Callum Smith, and a fired-up Chris Eubank Jnr, have both booked their place in the semi-finals already, with the winner of George Groves v Jamie Cox joining them in a fab-looking final four.

Our boxing odds expert Adrian Clarke looks ahead to this weekend’s Groves v Cox showdown…

There’s a great quote from 4/1 underdog Jamie Cox that caught my eye ahead of this interesting domestic dust-up, and it summed up the story of these two contenders. Said Swindon’s Cox:

“George Groves has been eating lobster, while I’ve been eating crisp sandwiches. We live completely different lives. I’m the hungrier fighter. This is a big opportunity for me and I’m going to take it.”

In his shoes I’d be adopting a similar attitude.

Despite boasting an impressive (24-0-0) unbeaten record, this is the 31-year-old’s first time eating at boxing’s top table.

He’s ravenous for a taste of glory and will be desperate to grab this one shot at the big time.

Entering into the unknown there will be a reliance on adrenalin, as well as the fine-dining Groves believing it will be a stroll in the park.

In theory, this makes Cox a dangerous adversary, but it’s how he controls that hunger that will dictate the level of performance he’s able to produce.

Headlining at Wembley will be the largest occasion of his career.

Personally, I don’t envisage George Groves turning up with a complacent attitude.

You have to remember this doubles up as the first defence of the WBA world title belt Groves won last May – beating Fedor Chudinov with a sixth-round stoppage – and with that in mind and the lure of a hugely lucrative tete-a-tete with Chris Eubank Jnr in January also present, he’ll surely be switched on.

Not that Groves, rated the number one seed in this competition, is unbeatable.

Even though new trainer Shane McGuigan has resurrected his form, I still feel the 29-year-old has several flaws.

While the Londoner showed great heart and power to dispose of a dangerous Chudinov last time out, he was put on the back foot early on in that fight, taking a hefty bit of punishment from the Russian.

He gets hit a little too easily, which always leaves him vulnerable to a shock stoppage.

Should Cox, who has 13 KOs to his name, show early aggression (without getting buzzed on the way in) Groves could be in for another rollercoaster ride.

However, as well as inexperience counting against him, Cox is also perceived as the smaller man.

He’s spent much of his career beating opponents at welterweight, super-welterweight and middleweight, with just a handful of low-rated scalps in this category.

How will Cox handle Groves’ heavy hands?

No one really knows because he has always been matched with guys he’s expected to beat.

This will be a whole different ballgame. And because we haven’t seen the underdog operate in fights at this top level, it’s hard to predict how he’ll fare, or how long this fight will last.

My hunch is that having watched Eubank Jnr’s demolition job in Germany last weekend, Groves will be chasing a frightening KO of his own. He’ll come out swinging, looking for a quick stoppage.

So I’ll plump for a finish within seven or eight rounds at Wembley Arena – always a happy hunting ground for Groves – with Cox heading back to Swindon, and a cupboard full of crisp sandwiches.

But no matter what Groves does on Saturday evening, I’d still make Eubank Jnr the favourite for their 2018 showdown. What a night that will be.

Grosvenor Sport Prediction

George Groves to win 1/6

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