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Long-awaited American debut just the start, says St George

By Tim Hobbs.   Last Updated: 27/07/10 6:28pm

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Groves: MMA training for Contreras

Groves: MMA training for Contreras

Sky Bet

George Groves is hoping the last big blockbuster bill of the season will be the starting point for an assault on the boxing world.

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"Just being out in America, whether they remember me or not, is what matters. When the comes time to go out there again and challenge for one of the big world titles, they'll feel like they know me."
George Groves Quotes of the week

The 22-year-old Londoner makes his American debut on Saturday evening on a packed undercard for the world lightweight title rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz in Las Vegas, live on Sky Sports HD.

Groves, unbeaten in nine and already the Commonwealth champion at super-middleweight, takes on a Mexican fighter for the first time in his professional career in the shape of Alfredo Contreras.

He will be boxing in the States for the first time on a card that also features an IBF world title eliminator in his division between Sakio Bika and Jean Paul Mendy and the WBO middleweight title tussle between Daniel Jacobs and Dmitry Pirog.

With Joel Casamayor, Jorge Linares and Rocky Juarez also in action and world heavyweight champion David Haye in his corner and fellow Briton Amir Khan watching on to see if he fights Marquez or Diaz next, Groves will be in exalted company at the Mandalay Bay.

And he knows that it is vital he is not overshadowed as he finally introduces himself to the American boxing public.

"There's some American super-middleweights on show so it will be interesting for me to get amongst them and show them they are not going to have it all their own way," he told skysports.com ahead of his last training session at Hayemaker's South London HQ.

"Just being out there, whether they remember me or not, is what matters. When the comes time to go out there again and challenge for one of the big world titles, they'll feel like they know me; there'll be pictures of me boxing on HBO when I was 22 years old and they'll know they'll have seen me before.

Questions

"It's great because American fight fans do adopt you pretty quickly once they know you're any good. Golden Boy have earmarked me for this card because they have some of their own super-middleweights on and it's adding to the interest. I'm chuffed to be on the same bill.

"Obviously you have to have the opportunity and the financial backing to gpo to the States and I'm fortunate enough to be in that position. Other than that, you need to claim you're Irish and wear green shorts! 'St George' Groves doesn't really work like that that, so we've had to do it the other way.

"They're really excited to have David out there, too. He's probably more of a star out there than he is here because we see him all the time; it's a special occasion when he's in America."

Groves is certain he can find a performance to match the surroundings and stellar castlist - even if he admits to knowing little about the man in the opposite corner.

Contreras' record of 11-7-1-(KO5) might not spread fear through the 12-stone division but the fact that he is from the boxing hotbed of Mexico makes him a different prospect altogether.

Because of that and the surroundings, Groves knows he cannot afford to be complacent; even in an eight-rounder that is a precursor to a Commonwealth defence against Carl Dilks in October and a supporting role when Haye cimbs back into the ring, possibly in November.

"This opponent will ask more questions than I would get if I was fighting a top domestic fighter over here," he said.

"It's not a nothing fight; I have to go out there and do my business and I think I will learn a lot from it. American boxers have a different culture, they fight differently, they're tough and they come from the School of Hard Knocks.

"To get out there as much as possible - even if it's just sparring with the top guys - is what's really going to bring me on when it comes to fighting back over here."

Explosive

Groves and trainer Adam Booth have not bothered pouring over tapes of Contreras, confident that the 22-year-old has been matched right by Golden Boy and will have way too much in his make-up to be troubled.

But they have been working on strength and close-in fighting in preparation for what the fighter himself expects to be a man who will be "pretty active" and "come forward throwing plenty of punches".

To do that, they have enlisted the help of MMA fighter Dave Nicolosi, a typically unconventional move from Booth and his bright propsect.

"We never really make things too specific for fighters," he said. "But last time I boxed (Charles) Adamu, so we worked on a lot of strength, worked with some MMA guys. I've carried that on for this fight because it works really well.

"I've been wrestling with Dave, bouncing from one to the other, going from that static wrestle or struggle straight into explosive punching. A lot of people need that few seconds breather in between - but that's when they get caught and come unstuck."

Groves knows that while he will not make his name overnight against Contreras, he has it all to lose as he heads across the Atlantic.

He might be out to impress America but a traditional approach to clean up at home still drives him on. He seems to have all but given up chasing British super-middleweight king Paul Smith (left) - for now - but is adamant he wants to add that belt, plus the European strap to the Commonwealth title he already owns - and will defend against Dilks in the autumn.

Yet as his progress quickens and each fight takes on more importance, the man who calls himself St George, is not about to get cross with rivals not wanting to take him on.

"Apparently Smith is boxing a middleweight for his super-middleweight title, who's not even ranked in the top 10," he said.

"I think he can win it outright with a third win and then he'll probably vacate and fight for a Mickey Mouse world title somewhere down the line. They might slip someone in there for the British title and I read somewhere that Kenny Anderson's fighting (Tony) Quigley in an eliminator, but all I care about is what comes back from the Board. They haven't said anything yet, but I am hoping to be made mandatory.

"I definitely want that British title, but I'm not going to queue and wait for two years while everyone gets their 'fair crack' at it. If I have to move on, I have to move on.

"There's the European title out there and (champion) Brian Magee seems to be willing to fight anyone - he's even offering Prizefighters the chance to win a European title... what is the world coming to?"

Champion

Haye of course is still to announce his next fight, some three months on from beating John Ruiz, with rumours of an all-British battle with Audley Harrison or a rematch with Nikolai Valuev the likeliest possibilities.

But Groves already knows what and who is next. And he has already vowed to remain far more active than his illustrious stablemate, keen to keep ahead of bitter rival James DeGale and build on his rapid rise from amateur star to genuine professional prospect in little more than a year-and-a-half.

"I want to keep active now," he said. "I'm not going to be one of those champions who fights twice a year now I'm at title level. I want to keep busy, keep ticking over.This is only going to be an eight-rounder, so I can still have my title fights and 12-rounders which need longer camps.

"I will just see how things progress. If you put a timeline on something it can end up being demoralising. If everything's going well you're happy, but if you get tied up with negotations or all of a sudden you get injured, you end up thinking 'oh no, I'm behind' and there's a ticking clock in the back of your mind that says it's not going to happen.

"Without telling anyone, I said after two years that I wanted to be a domestic champion. That's what I'd hoped for and that's what I am and that came about early, after about 18 months. But you tell people something and sometimes they look at you in a strange way and say 'Really? What's going on here, then?'.

"That's where British fighters come unstuck; sometimes they are almost frightened to say they want to be world champion therefore they're never going to be a world champion. I believe I'm with the right team and with them I can get right to the very top, where David is now.

"Whether that happens now or in three of four years, it doesn't matter, I know I am going to get there and be a world champion."

Will Groves go all the way? How highly do you rate the 22-year-old? Let us know by filling in the feedback form below...

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