Another Saturday night brings us yet another high-profile all-British affair, as the forever confident IBO super middleweight champion, Chris Eubank Jr. challenges the WBA super middleweight title holder, George Groves in Manchester. The two square off in semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series, with Eubank stopping veteran Avni Yildirim in Stuttgart in the previous round, while Groves dispatched compatriot Jamie Cox in London last year.
Eubank Jr's story
Eubank Jr, (26-1, 20 KOs) goes into the clash as the betting favourite, even though it's his adversary with more experience at world level. His recent performances suggest that he is the man in form, having produced a number of eye-catching displays against some decent names in the form of former world champion, Arthur Abraham and the aforementioned, Yildirim - though both were in the twilights of their career.
His unbeaten streak dates to the back end of 2014, when he suffered his only professional career defeat, against the current WBO middleweight king, Billy Joe Saunders, in a narrow split decision. Since that setback, the 28-year-old has finished all but one of his last eight opponents inside the distance, attracting the attention of fighters and fans alike. Well, even more than before, anyway...
The Brighton man has been on the cusp of the elite of late and has never been short of opponents who want the Eubank name on their records. For some reason, the high-profile fights - including a clash with pound-for-pound contender Gennady Golovkin - have never materialised. So for 'Next Gen', getting a win over a fellow world champion in his biggest bout to date, and advancing to the final would be a considerable step towards establishing himself as one of the elite fighters in the world.
Groves' road to glory
Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) goes into this one with a fair bit of momentum himself having finally achieved the mantle of world champion in 2017. He kicked off a productive six months by defeating Fedor Chudinov for the vacant WBA strap at the end of May. This was in fact the Londoner's fourth and quite possibly final shot at a world title having previously fallen short against rival Carl Froch, on two occasions and the highly talented Swede, Badou Jack.
Unlike the previous attempts, Groves was able to finally get his hands on a world championship, by stopping the Russian banger, Fedor Chudinov in an action packed six rounds. This was the defining fight in the 29-year-old's career who had to overcome a broken jaw and a menacing cut before the ref finally made a decision after a flurry from the Hammersmith fighter, handing Groves his maiden world title.
Since then, 'Saint George' has defended his belt in the Super Series, by producing a solid yet unspectacular performance to stop fellow Brit Jamie Cox. Though he put the relative unknown fighter away, he seemed to be lacking the spark that we have seen in Eubank recently, absorbing far too many shots on his way to a fourth round victory courtesy of a crippling body shot.
So, as the showdown approaches, why are so many are getting behind the less experienced man? Well, the son of the British legend, Chris Eubank Sr, has shown the killer instinct of a world champion in his last few outings, which cannot be said for Groves. He has literally steamrolled his recent opponents developing a fanfare in the process. In contrast, Groves has ground out results in his latest bouts, but has shown in the past that he is capable of going toe-to-toe with the world's best, as seen in his previous world title shots.
In terms of a prediction, this one is a very difficult one to call. The battle-tested Groves is a big guy for the division and has the skill and ability to upset anybody. Add the fact that he has substantial power - especially in the right hand - his incredible durability means he is certainly the most dangerous opponent that Eubank Jr has ever got in the ring with. Eubank Jr on the other hand has shown that he is a highly athletic and super aggressive fighter. Walking forward and knocking out opponents is his thing, and he feels there is no doubt in his mind that he will do the same to the WBA king.
Though Eubank is the household name and the bookies favourite, it would not be a surprise to see Groves advance. He is well more versed at world level, technically superior and arguably more powerful. His ability to absorb shots could be the difference between the two. Eubank is not a natural super middleweight having spent time in the division below, but certainly packs a punch at 168lbs. He is a little too aggressive at times and tends to go missing in rounds once he feels he has done enough. Should he not remain tight defensively, he could well suffer his first ever knockout. I can see Groves getting his hand raised by via a narrow decision.
Prediction: Groves on points
Who do you think will advance to the WBSS final? Comment below...
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