George Groves beat Chris Eubank Jr on points to book a spot in the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final and retain his WBA ‘Super’ world title.
‘The Saint’ dominated the first half in front of a packed Manchester Arena and held on through an expected late onslaught to take the unanimous decision, with the judges scoring 117-112, 116-112, 115-113 in his favour.
Groves will now face either Callum Smith or Juergen Braehmer in the final for the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy in June.
The tournament’s No 1 seed showed his size, experience and skill, controlling the pace from the start and dealing with almost everything Eubank Jr threw at him, even in a frenetic finish that saw Groves dislocate his shoulder.
“He didn’t lie when he said he would grit it out,” Groves told ITV Box Office.
“He didn’t bring pressure because I was hurting him. I dropped him at least once but it didn’t count, which was dubious.”
There seemed little threat to Groves when they finally met in the ring, his jab enabling him to own the early rounds, aided by a cautious start from the Brighton fighter.
It took Eubank Jr most of the second round to come out of his shell and start to close the gap but he saw his big shots whistle past as Groves seemed unfazed and largely untouched.
The third brought them both together at last, and a decent left hook to the body was Eubank Jr’s best shot. It saw him press Groves onto the ropes, ducking down and shunting forward. It was the challenger who suffered though, an accidental head clash opening a sizeable cut on the outside of his right eye.
It didn’t stop his enthusiasm but Eubank Jr’s accuracy continued to suffer, and ‘The Saint’ responded with wide, left and right hooks both hitting the target.
Groves then showed his strength by flipping Eubank Jr almost through the ropes in the sixth, the ugly, inside exchanges were not concerning him, even in the gripping eighth round when they both landed trademark shots.
Eubank Jr’s left hook started it off and seemed to have the world champion off balance, but still able to fire in a jarring right that would have caused plenty of other super-middleweights serious problems.
The intensity increased in the ninth, Groves often against the ropes but Eubank Jr’s shots become wilder, and everyone, including him, knew he was going to need something special to live up to his own predictions as it went into the championship rounds.
His left hook at the start of the 10th was perhaps the one big shot that seemed to wobble Groves but again, he returned the favour. A curt, clinical counter hook seemed to put Eubank Jr down, only for referee Michael Alexander ruling out a knockdown.
By that stage, both fighters were starting to tire but Groves dismissed any notion that he would struggle to go the full distance and was comfortably absorbing and countering more rough tactics, as Eubank Jr become desperate.
The world champion did actually look in trouble in the last round with the left hook catching him again and even though he seemed to lose his balance, the shoulder problem might have had more of an impact than Eubank Jr.
“I thought I did enough in the later rounds to win,” Eubank Jr told ITV Box Office.
“I thought I pressured him the entire fight. I didn’t get hit clean. He cut me, and I couldn’t see. Did I underestimate him? Maybe.”