The race to win the World Boxing Super Series is starting to seriously hot up in the super-middleweight division, and this weekend’s first semi-final has thrown up a potential Fight of the Year contender.
George Groves v Chris Eubank Jnr has split fans and experts down the middle. No one can agree on which English warrior is going to prevail. Here’s our boxing odds expert Adrian Clarke with his take on how it will pan out…
To the untrained eye it is too easy to take one look at the bizarre and often-outlandish Eubank media circus and believe it’s all hot air – but don’t be fooled.
Chris Eubank Jnr may not the Second Coming or the next Floyd Mayweather – as his charismatic father would love to have us believe – but he sure can fight.
Talented, vicious, ice-cold, lightning fast, hard-working, and inheriting the granite chin that served his dad so well during the 90s, the Brighton-born boxer has the tools he needs to fulfil his dream of becoming a bona fide world champion.
Therefore I believe it will take the best and bravest performance of George Groves’ career for him to cling on to his WBA world super-middleweight belt in Manchester on Saturday night.
It seems the bookies agree. Ahead of his second title defence, the Londoner is regarded as 7/5 second favourite.
As a match-up, this is very special. For me, it has the potential to become an all-British classic.
Groves has unbelievable cojones.
Defeated in his first three attempts to land a world title (twice by Carl Froch, and then Badou Jack) he has come through an awful lot of adversity to eventually climb his way to the top of the pile.
Many fighters would have called it quits after being rendered unconscious in front of 80,000 fans, but Groves kept going and has reinvented himself under the watchful eye of new trainer Shane McGuigan.
He is heavy-handed and a naturally large super-middleweight, so don’t be surprised if the 29-year-old looks markedly bigger than Eubank Jnr in the ring.
The 11/20 favourite could easily operate in the weight class below if he chooses to.
So to gain the upper hand against Eubank Jnr, Groves has to use that power wisely. While it could be suicidal to be drawn into a slugfest, he does need to stop the ferocious upstart in his tracks.
— Chris Eubank Jr (@ChrisEubankJr) February 11, 2018
This means it’s imperative the champion uses his clever footwork, laser jab and counter-punching skills to fend his man off.
Should he pick off and punish the occasionally raw Eubank Jnr with stinging shots as he makes his way into range, a points win isn’t unfeasible at 5/1.
My fear for Groves is that he will be outworked and drawn into a war.
Eubank Jnr is relentless and capable of unleashing a barrage of KO-type shots for 12 rounds solid. Backed up by a great chin and no shortage of bravery, I just don’t see him backing off.
Once in that position with his back to the wall, the gutsy Groves won’t back down, but he could be in big trouble. He was cut badly when winning the title against Fedor Chudinov and has been stopped twice before remember.
While some sceptics still don’t think Eubank Jnr has enough power at super-middleweight, his devastating 3rd round KO of Avni Yildirim last time out did suggest otherwise.
This is a 50-50 fight where you can make a strong case for each to prevail.
Groves has the pedigree and big-fight experience. Eubank Jnr has freshness and unerring hand speed.
But it has to be the slightly younger man that wins this, for me.
Against his two most-skilled opponents to date, Billy Joe Saunders and Arthur Abraham, the 26-1 fighter more than held his own.
Raw and incredibly naïve in a tactical sense, he very nearly beat the brilliant Saunders despite giving him the first six rounds while ‘pacing himself’ in 2014, and he utterly dominated Abraham, who can be very awkward.
A punishing points success for Eubank Jnr is a very possible outcome (5/2) but I believe he is capable of finding a stoppage against Groves, who may be just past his best now.
I see this as the night when he finally steps out of his dad’s shadow. From what I’ve seen he is definitely good enough to beat Groves.
Devon Alexander v Victor Ortiz
It’s last chance saloon for these two former world champions in El Paso this weekend. Each is trying to resurrect their career at the age of 31, but there is only one way the loser is heading, and that’s towards retirement.
Alexander has lost on three of his last five outings, against Shawn Porter, Amir Khan and Aaron Martinez, but after coming through some personal issues during a two-year hiatus he did impress when beating Walter Castillo on his comeback.
Ortiz, who has been KO-ed by Floyd Mayweather, Luiz Collazo and Andre Berto since 2011, also looked OK on his comeback last July – but does he really believe he can still mix it with the elite?
THIS IS NOT A GAME!! pic.twitter.com/YwDNDbBKix
— THE GREAT (@TheRealDevonA) February 12, 2018
I don’t see it myself, and the scars of those horrible losses will take some shifting.
Unfortunately, I envisage an ugly fight between two ageing southpaws, but it is Alexander who I side with.
He’s a guy who knows how to manage fights and get the job done; even if he lacks serious power.
I believe it will be a points’ success, and you should be safe to back Alexander at 33/100 for the win.