Joshua vs Breazeale: George Groves may surprise against Martin Murray
By Isaac Robinson
Last Updated: 21/06/16 5:53pm
It's the fight nobody can call with conviction but George Groves could end up disproving critics of his stamina against Martin Murray.
Groves has heaped pressure on himself and his opponent by asserting that the loser of Saturday's Sky Sports Box Office bout will be forced to kiss goodbye to any lingering world title aspirations. Some believe that'll be 'The Saint' simply because he'll be found out for fitness late on in the fight.
The obvious answer is defeats to Carl Froch. Groves famously knocked down the IBF and WBA super-middleweight champion in the opening round of their first meeting in Manchester in November 2013 and by the time he was stopped on his feet in the ninth, he was still ahead on all three scorecards.
Fast forward to Wembley in May 2014 and at the time that thunderous Froch right landed in round eight, Groves was ahead on one card and behind by a single point on the others.
Now in a fight that lacks a belt as a prize but will prove pivotal in his career regardless, Groves has to take on the machine-like Murray, who remains the man to have taken the brutal Gennady Golovkin deepest into a fight (lasting nearly 11 rounds in February 2015).
Murray is all physicality, heart and menace with no small amount of technical ability. Some say he's all wrong for Groves and the durability that saw the St Helens fighter go agonisingly close to dethroning Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez and Arthur Abraham will benefit him in the latter stages of this one.
Beyond the defeats to Froch, though, it's not easy to see from where the recent fashion of assuming Groves has no engine of his own has sprung.
To pinpoint the first clash with 'The Cobra' is perhaps harsh. Had Groves worked hard to outbox Froch for the opening rounds? Yes. Was he looking increasingly ragged? Yes. Was his hair ruffled? Yes. Was his face red? Yes. But defeat was not necessarily born of the tank being empty; it was the result of continuing to trade when stunned.
Debate over Howard Foster Jr's intervention has gone on long enough but Groves - booed into the ring in Manchester and applauded out of it - got his rematch.
In the second fight, he again tried to outsmart the champion through technique and was arguably doing a solid job of it up until 'that' shot. It's important to highlight Froch's brilliance in both fights - the way he recovered from the early knockdown in the first and the way he picked the winning backhand in front of all those people in the second.
Will Murray prove so brilliant? The underdog may not possess the same power as Froch did, especially given that he's a recent graduate from middleweight.
Following that famous Wembley knockout, Groves returned against Christopher Rebrasse. The fight went the distance and as we've seen since from subsequent points defeats to Callum Smith and Rocky Fielding (a split decision), the Frenchman is a come-forward fighter not shy of a decent tempo.
The world title shot that followed - against Badou Jack in September 2015 - again went to the judges and this time it was Groves recovering from being dispatched to the canvas in the opener. The stoppages at the hands of Froch must have been flashing through his mind as he rose, and the fact he recovered to fight to the death only to suffer a split decision is surely testament to some degree of stamina.
Looking back the other side of the Froch saga, it's all too easy to forget that Groves put on a masterclass of attritional, points-targeted boxing against now-world champion James DeGale back in 2011 when trained by Adam Booth. Nobody was questioning his legs in the wake of that performance.
Now there's a new coach to factor in. Shane McGuigan is renowned as one of the sport's up-and-coming trainers and his gym already boasts one world champion in Carl Frampton. It's doubtful McGuigan has taken on the likes of Groves and David Haye to help babysit his youngsters, so surely any serious misgivings over Groves' fitness would have led to a swift separation.
Needless to say, Groves v Murray is a fight that can end any way. Will Groves' technique and power be completely nullified by Murray's cast-iron toughness? If so, Groves will have to do this the hard way.
A Groves points victory would admittedly owe much to technical talent and tireless concentration but if he can go the distance with a man of Murray's physical calibre and emerge with hand aloft, question marks over his ability to grind out results from longer fights are erased.
Watch George Groves vs Martin Murray as part of Joshua vs Breazeale, live on Sky Sports Box Office from The O2, on June 25. Book the event online here or via your Sky remote.