George Groves returned with a knockout win over Italian stallion Andrea Di Luisa last weekend but what can we really take from such a victory? Groves displayed his usual quality jab and mixed the punches fairly well while Andrea, as Jim Watt would suggest, had been spending too much time in the tattoo parlour and not enough in the gymnasium.
The old limbs needed flexing for the opening six minutes as a bearded Groves measured his man before unleashing the big boys. Not for the first time the Di Luisa corner had their white towel (see white flag) raised ready to throw into the ring to end the madness at the first sign of distress.
Di Luisa is a confidence-building opponent, short of world class but with a record sufficiently padded enough to look respectable. Upon closer scrutiny you would see a retirement loss to Christopher Rebrasse in 2012. The Frenchman of course went on to concede a wide decision to Groves in 2014.
Groves has retained a healthy portion of fight fans with a good number electing to remain on the train having boarded during his two scraps with Carl Froch. Many of his collective descended on the Copper Box venue armed with drums and trumpets. In fact, allowing a full band to play throughout the fight at such a distressing volume was an interesting decision which, judging by comments afterwards, did more to annoy fellow punters rather than create the type of party atmosphere the promoters craved.
George improved as the fight went on, looking compact if unspectacular and shedding any perceived ring rust in the early rounds before loosening up and letting the hands go.
I would imagine that he will be back competing for world titles within the next three or so fights. His handlers, the Sauerlands, are canny operators and seem to work well with Eddie Hearn who also promotes Martin Murray. A fight between Groves and Murray would produce an engaging, if not exciting, spectacle at some point down the line.
Against Di Luisa, Groves looked a little older, possibly wiser, and seems to have gelled reasonably well with new trainer Shane McGuigan. If there’s one thing McGuigan can do it is solve the stamina and late-fight gas tank issues that have dogged Groves’ career thus far. Shane is a fitness fanatic and sports nutritionist who regularly whips Carl Frampton into tip-top condition. McGuigan’s quietly assured style is not dissimilar to that of London-based Irishman Paddy Fitzpatrick who handled ‘St George’ in recent bouts after he split with Adam Booth just before the first Froch fight.
Groves often gives off the impression that he is supremely confident but I wonder if much of that may be posture and that he actually lacks the self-belief he displays. Knockout wins over the Di Luisa’s of this world serve to build his ego back up as he readies himself for a title fight. But after getting decisively “Cobra’d” by Froch in front of 80,000 fans in Wembley I would've forgiven the Englishman for scurrying back into a hole for a while. To his credit he swiftly jumped back on the horse to tackle Badou Jack on away soil.
I don’t agree with the Londoner’s assessment of that fight or the robbery he purported it to be. I had Jack a comfortable winner by a margin of 116-111, give or take a round. Jack is decent. Certainly better than the shock loss to Derek Edwards and hard to beat at world level but remains little more than a belt holder. In this era of fractured prizeware Jack is merely the owner of a piece of metal.
There has never been a better time to claim world championship status and I’d be surprised if Groves retired not having won a piece of his own.
Steve has been writing about boxing since 2005. He covers the Irish scene by regularly contributing to a variety of publications including Boxing News Magazine and the Sunday Life. He is a panel member of the Boxing Asylum podcast and writes the Irish Boxing Review books with five released so far.