George Groves wins European super-middleweight title on his return to Wembley
Last Updated: 21/09/14 10:16am
George Groves banished his Wembley demons with a wide points win over Christopher Rebrasse to claim the European super-middleweight title.
The 26-year-old challenger was returning to the scene of his knockout defeat, with conqueror Carl Froch at ringside, but produced a composed display to earn victory with two scores of 118-110 and 117-111.
Concerns were raised about Groves after his crushing defeat by 'The Cobra', and he started cagily in the first round, swapping jabs with the Frenchman, who displayed minimal head movement.
Rebrasse was proving an inviting target and he ate more stiff jabs in the second before Groves, visibly growing in confidence, unleashed a flurry of punches in the third which briefly troubled the champion.
He continued to chip away at the man nicknamed 'The Iceberg', landing a brace of hooks in the fourth, and the Groves chin held firm in the fifth when Rebrasse replied with a sharp left hand.
The relentless pace continued past the halfway mark, with both men content to stand and trade, but 'Saint George' was clearly outlanding his rival and two big rights were greeted by a defiant gesture from Rebrasse in the seventh round.
Despite his brave resistance, the gruelling battle was taking its toll on the belt-holder who walked to the wrong corner at the end of the next stanza.
Just when Groves appeared in command, he showed glimpses of vulnerability as a left hand briefly troubled him in the ninth. Trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick had seen the signs from a few months earlier and issued a stern rebuke at the bell.
I want to knock people out. I didn’t manage to do it tonight, but I gave it a real good go. I think all the fans here tonight appreciate that, so that’s why they come out to support me.
His words had the desired effect and Groves displayed more discipline in the closing rounds, working behind his accurate jab for much of the 10th before a brief barrage brought the crowd to their feet.
The pace finally dropped in the 11th, with both men struggling to maintain the back-and-forth battle, but Groves boxed wisely in the last as he relied on his potent jab to prevent any late scares.
All three judges confirmed a convincing win for the local favourite, who acquired a new belt and the status of mandatory challenger for WBC belt holder Anthony Dirrell.
Groves admitted he was trying to force a stoppage against Rebrasse, but was pleased with his comeback victory after the two defeats by Froch.
"It’s great to be back on Sky. Rebrasse was a good opponent, tough guy," he told Sky Sports 2. "He took an awful lot of punches. We knew it was going to be tough tonight, we talked about the comedown from the historic last fight. I always say I deal with pressure well, and tonight I’ve got a bit of success to go with it.
"I want to knock people out. I didn’t manage to do it tonight, but I gave it a real good go. I think all the fans here tonight appreciate that, so that’s why they come out to support me.
"I didn’t want to run out of steam. I felt in great condition but you always have to be cautious with a guy who has never been stopped."
Dirrell has made disparaging comments about Groves in recent weeks, questioning whether the Englishman is worthy of a shot at the title he took from Sakio Bika last month.
But the new European king insists he is next in line and plans to add another belt to his collection.
"The clock is ticking on his voluntary," said Groves. "We want to take the quickest route, rather than the easiest.
"He’s been very disrespectful. He’s got his win, he’s the champion and I’ll give him that respect. He says he doesn’t want to come to the UK, but we might make him.
"He says he doesn’t want to fight me, but now he has to. He’s in for a rude awakening."