Until now, the super-middleweight division of the ongoing World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) has been completely overshadowed by the more exciting, better organized tournament over at cruiserweight. Four cruiserweight world champs — Oleksandr Usyk, Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, and Yunier Dorticos — are through to the semifinals, and there’s a good chance the series will end with a unified champion.
The super-middleweight division, on the other hand, failed to recruit Gilberto Ramirez, the WBO champ and consensus top super-middleweight, along with a handful other top-ranked fighters in the division. Instead, we were forced to watch a slew of dull, mismatched fights.
That all ends now! Chris Eubank Jr. and George Groves, two of the biggest names in British boxing, have agreed to a semifinal clash on February 17th at Manchester Arena. Like all British grudge matches, the fight has caught the attention of the public, selling out within seven minutes.
Let’s preview the fight ahead; the odds below are from Ladbrokes.
Chris Eubank Jr. (-150) vs George Groves (+120), Draw (+2200)
Despite their similarities, the career trajectories of IBO champ Chris Eubank Jr. (26-1, 20 KOs) and WBA champ George Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) stand in stark contrast.
Groves exploded onto the scene early in his career, demonstrating a pugilistic talent rarely seen from such an inexperienced fighter. Due to his early success, he was hailed as the next big thing in British boxing. But back-to-back losses against an aging Carl Froch, which would have been a “passing of the torch” moment had he won, and a narrow split-decision loss to Badou Jack has somewhat derailed his career.
He’s gone on to win his last six fights, but all the brawls throughout his career seem to have caught up with him and the champ is showing clear signs of wear.
Chris Eubank Jr. has taken a far more cautious approach to his career. After a brief but relatively successful stint as an amateur, Eubank Jr. turned pro with his father, Chris Eubank Sr., controlling his every move. He eased onto the scene with an array of fights against journeymen and domestic-level fighters, showing a lot of promise but also never really being tested.
Then his first true test came in the form of Billy Joe Saunders, whom he faced for the European middleweight title in 2014. Eubank narrowly lost by split decision, finishing strong in the later rounds but ultimately losing on points due to a sluggish start. That remains the only loss of his career, and he’s strung together eight wins in its wake.
Two very different questions loom over Groves and Eubank. For Groves, we just don’t know much mileage he has left. For Eubank, we don’t know how he stacks up against the best of the super-middleweight division. We’ll have both questions answered on February 17th.
Tale of the Tape
The tape tells a similar story for both fighters. Both stand at around 5’11” with a reach of about 72″. Eubank is 28 years old, while Groves is a little more than a year older at 29.
But that’s only part of the story. Groves is a career super middleweight, with 30 professional fights at 168 pounds. He’s at home at super middleweight; it’s where he belongs. Eubank Jr. is a natural middleweight, and only began making the eight-pound leap this year. Before that, he was fighting very comfortably at middleweight.
While Eubank Jr. has had three convincing wins at 168, none have been against notable opponents. We’ll know soon enough whether he really belongs in this weight class.
Both fighters are riding an impressive win streak. As mentioned, since losing to Saunders in 2014, Eubank has won his last eight. And since losing to Jack in 2015, Groves has gone on to win his next six. Neither has faced a truly challenging opponent since their losses, though, so there’s a good chance the streaks are mostly just padding.
Their quarterfinal fights in the WBSS were largely one-sided affairs. Groves faced the undefeated Jamie Cox and stopped him in the fourth round with a vicious body shot. Eubank faced Avni Yildirim, who was also undefeated at the time, and stopped the fight within three rounds.
Best Bet: George Groves (+120)
There are two competing theories at play. Those backing Groves believe that Eubank Jr. is an overrated fighter, relying on his family name and padded professional record. Those backing Eubank believe that Groves is a shell of his former self, a boxer on the brink of collapse.
Both could be right. However, while I agree that Groves’ best years are behind him, I also believe he has a few more good fights left in him. Power has never been Eubank Jr.’s strong suit, even at middleweight, and that could seriously haunt him in the higher weight class. Eubank has relied mostly on his speed, and at 168, he isn’t as quick and agile with his combinations. That could end up making all the difference.