There’s nothing quite like a domestic dust-up to really whet the appetite of British boxing fans, and when George Groves and Chris Eubank Jnr lock horns next Saturday night in Manchester we can enjoy two of the finest super-middleweights on the planet going at it.
The contest is part of the World Boxing Super Series event, but perhaps more pressingly for both men is the fact that the WBA and IBO titles are on the line. The winner will advance to the final of the tournament, and have some prestigious gold to wear around their waist.
It’s a classic tale of contrasts: a battle-hardened veteran enjoying a late career renaissance, against a brash, young hopeful with dreams of world domination. Both Groves and Eubank are aggressive and front-foot fighters too, so this encounter bears all the hallmarks of a domestic classic.
The bookmakers are convinced that it is Eubank who will take the spoils, making him a comfortable 8/13 favourite. But there are plenty of pundits and punters alike who are interested by Groves’ chances, and with the draw being an unlikely outcome his price of 17/10 will attract plenty of big money in the next week or so.
But where is the smart investment going?
The Case for Eubank
It’s funny to consider Eubank as the ‘younger’ fighter given that he is Groves’ junior by barely 18 months, and has had just three professional fights less.
But there is mileage in the notion that Eubank, at 28, is much fresher than Groves and younger ‘in the game’. His career started three years later than the 29-year-old’s, and barring one exception he has not had to go to the well too often – unlike his opponent here.
In his 27 fights, Eubank has won 20 by way of knockout and six on the judges’ cards – although five of those points wins came within his first eight fights, so he has clearly improved his punch power and timing considerably since.
The one blemish on Eubank’s record is the split-decision defeat to Billy Joe Saunders back in November 2014. Despite his camp’s protestations about the fairness of the scoring, Eubank lost fair and square but there’s no shame in that: Saunders is a genuinely world-class operator.
The son of the ever-charismatic Chris Snr has since moved up to super-middleweight and offers a perfect 3-0 record, including a victory over former WBO and IBF champion Arthur Abraham in the summer.
Eubank is the naturally smaller man and so will enjoy a speed advantage over Groves – although admittedly the latter is no slouch on his feet, and knowing that his foe has twice been stopped by Carl Froch, Eubank will want to show he is an elite-level fighter by doing the same in Manchester.
The pair have previously sparred, and Eubank claims to have had the better of their exchanges. “We have sparred multiple times over the years. I would hurt him and he would leave the ring dejected and emotional. I have the footage,” he said.
“There is no way it can go the distance. I’m going to stop him.”
The Case for Groves
Since teaming up with trainer Shane McGuigan, Groves has turned his career around.
He was mostly known for being a real nuisance to Carl Froch in their pair of fights, dumping the Cobra on the canvas in the first bout before going down to a spirited defeat in front of 80,000 people at Wembley in the second.
The 29-year-old also failed in his third attempt at winning a world title, losing on points to Badou Jack in Las Vegas, and lesser men may have called time on their career at that point.
But Groves has shown he is made of sterner stuff….
He’s 6-0 since hooking up with McGuigan, a run which includes four knockouts and a high-quality points win over the old warrior, Martin Murray. In May, Groves finally accomplished his dream of becoming a world champion when stopping Fedor Chudinov in six.
Groves is a natural super-middleweight, and has stacks of big fight experience under his belt. He should not be underestimated here.
No less a judge than Ricky Hatton has suggested that Groves will win this fight, and in truth it feels like one of those genuine 50/50 encounters that get boxing fans on their feet.
Groves has KO pedigree and is an excellent technician, while Eubank has the controlled aggression of a dangerous man and prowls the ring like a lion.
From a betting perspective, our next move is obvious. This is a too close to call encounter, and so both fighters should be priced nearer to the 10/11 mark. But the bookies don’t fancy Groves, and so we must play the percentages and back him to derail the Eubank bandwagon.