It's all about George
George Groves tells skysports.com he is ready to get his career going again after some testing times...
By Tim Hobbs
Last Updated: 03/03/11 1:18pm
George Groves is used to things happening quickly.
A Commonwealth champion after only nine professional fights, Hayemaker Promotions' risk-and-reward philosophy brought titles and recognition to match his reputation as one of British boxing's brightest talents.
But when he climbs through the ropes in Huddersfield on Saturday night to face Ghana's Daniel Adotey Allotey, it will be the first time the Londoner has seen meaningful action in three months.
That period of inactivity was brought about by injury and last-minute changes to schedules that have left Groves not exactly kicking his heels but now ready, in his first outing of 2011, to kick-start his career.
Having already seen his first headline fight fall through at the last minute when James Obede Toney's deteriorating eyesight prevented them doing battle at the York Hall at the start of December, Groves then suffered the first knockdown of his professional career against Kenny Anderson two weeks later.
The first chance he had to right those wrongs was supposed to be in Liverpool in February, only for his own health to put paid to that days before the contest. He was then looking to box on the undercard of Matthew Hatton's world-title tilt with Saul Alvarez this weekend only for another late change to leave him heading to Yorkshire as part of a Matchroom Show.
It has been a frustrating time for the 22-year-old and a far cry from his rise through the super-middleweight rankings last year. It is no wonder, then, that Saturday cannot come quickly enough.
"It feels like it has been coming for a long time," Groves told skysports.com.
"I was supposed to box on February 12 but that got bumped because of injury. It was an accumulation of things really; in my last spar there was a clash of heads that led to a perforated eardrum and I'm one of those people that sometimes gets the feeling someone somewhere is trying to tell me something.
"I didn't want to go into a fight that wasn't really that important when I wasn't 100 per cent and risk blowing it.
"It's all part of it, it happens in boxing. Having the show cancelled at two days' notice was devastating, but considering it was the first defence of my Commonwealth title it was probably better it happened then than for the first defence of a world title. And if it does happen again in the future, I've had the experience of dealing with it all."
He has also had to live with, for the past three months, the indignation of suffering his first professional knockdown at the hands of Anderson.
It led to plenty of pundits, including Sky Sports' own Glenn McCrory, suggesting Groves and Adam Booth needed to work out just what style would not only suit him best, but sustain a career that promises much and, of course, survive a collision course with long-time rival James DeGale.
Groves, though, has not been idle in his time away from the ring. There was no crisis of confidence after the Anderson fight - which he won after all - and those that have seen him close-up will never question his commitment or talent. But there has been plenty of stylistic assessment and even a little soul-searching as he looks to the future.
"That's a fair comment, I can understand where they're coming from," he says of those that questioned him, without an ounce of indignation.
"What makes it a whole lot better is I am not really in two ways about what I want to be; I know what I'm good at at present and we're just adding to it all the time so when I do get to the toughest level I am not just a one-trick pony, I can change and adapt.
"It's a long process doing it against good fighters and there have been a few hurdles to overcome lately, but I would rather it happened earlier in my career.
"I know the reason it (the knockdown) happened; I let my heart rule my head. People might not realise what was going on but I know what I did and I know it was wrong. I needed to get back to who I am as a person instead of being worried about my ego and my pride.
"My pride embarrassed me, made me get put down; I was getting hit but tried to hit back and be flashy to frustrate him but I was caught by Anderson and I tried to punch my way out of the situation - that led to me making mistakes and getting knocked down.
"Then I tried to get up straight away and that was another ego thing, not something I needed to be doing."
Groves and Booth have not headed back to the drawing board by any means. Like any young fighter he is far from the finished product and is the first to admit that. But refinement rather than redesign has been taking place under the arches in south London, where he, David Haye and Booth draw out their battle plans and put them into practice.
It is easy to forget that less than two-and-a-half years ago he was still plying his trade behind the headguard and over three three-minute rounds. He might have a Commonwealth belt on the mantelpiece in his Hammersmith home but those amateur traits might just be as hard to shake off as professional trinkets are to snare.
But for Groves, it might just be a question of getting back to the basics that he brought into the paid ranks and then re-applying what he has learned since.
"I don't really have a one-punch knockout and I'm trying to develop that," he said. "But I want the ability to go on the back foot too, be essentially what I was as an amateur - an aggressive box-fighter.
"I've got a good boxing brain, good punch variety, good handspeed and it's better now that I know that style, it's what I'm getting back to trying.
"I used to overwhelm people with aggression and tenacity but make mistakes at the same time - amateurish mistakes - so I am just correcting those things and adding more things. I'd never throw a left hook as an amateur but now I am throwing it; I'm not going to be knocking people out like (Sugar) Ray Leonard, but it's coming."
Just as Groves knows little or nothing of Saturday's opponent, if Allotey thinks he will learn much from watching the Anderson fight, he could be making the sorest mistake of his own eight-year career.
Since then Groves has taken in a trip to Miami and the fabled Fifth Street Gym to work alongside Haye and a variety of sparring partners - southpaws like Allotey - that only a visit to the States can provide. A typically audacious Hayemaker bid to share those being used by IBF super-middleweight king Lucien Bute was politely declined, but in the gyms of America, doors open as quickly as they close.
"One day you walk into a gym and there's a 6ft 5in southpaw on the pads so you spar with him," he says.
"You just wouldn't get that in gyms over here but over there they've got sparring partners everywhere - and they are not frightened to get in the ring; they don't care who you are or what you've done. A couple of dollars can secure what you need and they're happy to oblige.
"I got some really good sparring in - although I can't actually remember any of their names."
For George Groves right now, one boxing identity matters. It is not that of the beanpole on the pads, not the name that it has become all but British boxing law to mention in any interview - for the record he expects the DeGale fight will happen "this side of the year" - and it is not even the man in the opposite corner on Saturday night.
If the public is waiting to see what George Groves can do when he finally returns to the ring, then so too is the man himself.
"It's better for me to get in there with someone I don't know, use my ability to break them down," he says. "He could be slightly worse than his record suggests or he could be the next best thing to come out of Africa.
"Hopefully he does come and ask a few questions of me. I've been in the gym doing stuff for a long time now, trying out new things, adding new strings to the bow and now we're bringing it all together.
"Right now, it's all about me."