The storied career of George Groves is boxing personified. The potent combination of demoralising defeats and vital victories have led the Hammersmith man to riches, acclaim and, of course, his coveted World title. After being stopped by the enormous Callum Smith in Jeddah, does Groves still feel those nagging pangs of hunger for success?
Often the question we have to ask of fighters is not ‘will they’ hang up their gloves, but ‘can they’? Sure, there are fights out there for Groves to win, and win comfortably. His ability is unquestionable, with wisdom and experience hard-earned at the top level of the game, for the best part of a decade. The deposed champion has spoken about moving up to light heavyweight, however injuries and his intelligence as a man could signal an exit from the sport.
George has earned the right to make the decision, let’s not overlook that.
A fantastic amateur stanza with Dale Youth; that risky clash with James DeGale; his pairing with Carl Froch, filling Wembley stadium; regrouping to travel and challenge Badou Jack; finally capturing the WBA world title; the World Boxing Super Series. It hasn’t been easy – but that’s boxing.
Groves has never been blessed with huge commercial backing. He hasn’t been a ‘billboard’ fighter. Since establishing himself with Hayemaker Promotions and Adam Booth, the quiet man at super middleweight has gone about his business in a professional fashion. He’s had his vulnerabilities, with the Kenny Anderson fight specifically throwing his longevity into question.
In Carl Froch he found his nemesis, perhaps at exactly the wrong time. Training with Paddy Fitzpatrick, Groves was facing his toughest test. His performance in that opening World title challenge was revered, smashing Froch in the opening round and boxing beautifully throughout. A contentious finish, an enormously lucrative rematch and a thudding stoppage loss later, ‘St George’ found time for some much-needed soul-searching.
Boxing is brutal in many ways. At face-value, the name of the game is violence. Though, the deeper aspects of the sport were best explained to me recently by Jackie Kallen, “I think it’s a micro-cosm of life.” Nothing is handed to you. Each of us have our own ‘fights’, whether literally or beneath the surface.
Groves has been a constant in the British boxing scene for many years now, suffering its lows and gleaming as he finally reached its peak. To see the sadness etched on his face in Saudi Arabia was a stark reminder of the emotion that is stitched into boxing’s seams. It is everything.
Callum Smith was the bigger, fresher, stronger man when fighting for the Muhammad Ali trophy in Jeddah. Groves was the first to admit it. He would know, having thrown himself into fights with peers where he had assumed that role.
From here, the Londoner insisted he wouldn’t consider retirement, which seems reasonable as he could still be in exciting, winnable contests. His development under Shane McGuigan has been career-defining. He’s the owner of British boxing’s best jab and isn’t ‘damaged’ as a man outside of the ring.
In the days and weeks that follow, George will be enjoying a well-earned break with his wife and family. After that, who knows? Maybe we’ll see the return of the Saint, storming into the ring as The Prodigy pounds through the speakers. Maybe he’ll decide that he’s done enough, opting to pursue other avenues.
Boxing was a choice for a fighter like Groves, deciding to bounce back and make tough decisions for himself. He’s done it before, so you wouldn’t bet against him doing it again. Whatever transpires, his achievements are memorable and have been done the hard way.
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209