George Groves loses split decision to Badou Jack for WBC super-middleweight title
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 13/09/15 11:36am
George Groves' third attempt to capture a world title ended in agonising failure as he slipped to a split decision defeat to Badou Jack in Las Vegas.
The Hammersmith man was knocked down in the opening round on Saturday night but recovered to take the WBC super-middleweight champion the distance in a close scrap which was scored 115-112, 113-114, 116-111 in the title-holder's favour.
The marginal defeat - on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather's fight against Andre Berto in the MGM Grand Garden Arena - came after Groves was halted twice in IBF and WBA title fights against Carl Froch.
The 27-year-old Londoner was in serious trouble in the first round. Groves immediately went toe-to-toe and paid for it when Jack unloaded some sharp early shots. A straight right hand caught Groves perfectly on the jawline and wobbled his legs worryingly - prompting the visitor to take a knee.
He rose quickly - perhaps too quickly - with seconds remaining on the clock and with Jack wanting to capitalise on his blurry-eyed foe, but he hung on. In the second round, a looping Jack right hand was seen a mile away, indicating Groves had recovered swiftly.
A technical tit-for-tat battle unfolded as both men signalled intentions to land fight-ending blows. Through the third and fourth, they traded jabs but it was the exchanges of right hands that captivated onlookers.
Groves was occasionally guilty of dropping his left when guarding himself, yet rarely shied away from standing at close quarters, making for an exhilarating clash.
In the latter half of the fight, both fighters seemed to feel the pace and understandably so, because at times they threw frenetically with very few sessions won clearly.
Groves' forward pressure walked the tightrope between impressive and desperate because Jack often looked capable of responding with hard shots from the back foot. As it wore on, Jack's punches lost power but not frequency or accuracy.
The end of the ninth saw Groves bobbing and weaving in the pocket as they traded recklessly, with Jack appearing to land the more meaningful shots. Groves' bruising over his left eye was proof of his opponent's precision.
With 15 seconds left in the 10th, the Swedish-born puncher crunched a body shot and Groves leapt into the clinch breathing heavily. Digging in, he fought fire with fire but Jack hurt him to the body again as the bell rang and the 31-year-old smiled menacingly.
Catching a second wind as the final bell approached, the final two rounds were fought chest-to-chest with short punches ripping in from both fighters. Groves' best punch of the fight came in the final 30 seconds but the clock was against him as he tried to follow up a stinging right hand.
He was left in dismay and stormed out of the ring as the judges' scorecards favoured the reigning champion.
"I thought I won the fight decisively," Groves said. "Losing a world title fight is the worst feeling in the world."