Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Boxing Glove Big Fight Report: George Groves Fulfils His Dream As Kell Brook’s Homecoming Turns Into A Nightmare

Photo: Sky Sports

By Peter Silkov

It was a night of conflicting fortunes for two of Britain’s leading boxers at Sheffield’s Bramall Lane Outdoor Football Ground last night, June 27, 2017. While on his 4th attempt, George Groves (26-3, 19koes) finally fulfilled his dream of becoming a world champion. Unfortunately, Kell ‘The Special One’ Brook (36-2, 25koes) was deprived of his World welterweight title by Errol ‘The Truth’ Spence Jr (22-0, 19koesl) Today George Groves is looking forward to a wealth of possibilities, with a number of big money title defences ahead of him, on the opposite side however, Kell Brook is faced with an uncertain future in the sport.

Brook and Spence proved to be very well matched in their fight for Brook’s IBF world welterweight title, and the action, if a little messy at times, was tense and lively after a cagey first round. For the first six rounds Brook seemed to hold the edge, with his movement and strength giving Spence problems. The challenger showed glimpses of his speed and power, but at other times also seemed to show his relative inexperience at this level, compared with Brook. However the match began to turn sharply in Spence’s favour in the 6th, when Brooks left eye began to swell. Soon the eye was swollen grotesquely, and having suffered an orbital fracture in his other eye in his last contest (against Gennady Golovkin) it was clear that this latest injury was bothering Brook, both physically, and mentally.

Photo: Reuters
Spence now took control of the fight and doubled his attacks upon a now often retreating Brook. Yet Brook would not fold easily, he kept fighting back, just when it looked as though Spence was going to overwhelm him. However, the writing was on the wall by the 10th round when Spence floored Brook with a body shot, an area that the American had targeted from the beginning of the contest. Brook Survived the 10th, but was finding it visibly difficult to defend himself with his injured eye.

Photo: Sky Sports
In the 11th round, with the challenger putting him under heavy pressure, and constantly landing right hands upon Brooks damaged eye, Brook went down onto one knee after a flurry of shots, and took the referee’s full count, while he blinked and rubbed at his damaged left eye.

Errol Spence is already being hailed as America’s new star performer, but while his talent is not in question, he still has some way to go before he can be labelled as truly ‘special’ at world class level, especially in such a talent-laden division. Hopefully the fans will get a chance to see Spence meet the other big names in the 147 division, if so, then boxing really could see itself on a solid upswing.

Photo: The Sun
Defeat for Brook will be a bitter pill to take, especially in front of 27,000 spectators, made up largely of his home town fans. Whether he would have prevailed if his left eye had not gone in the 7th, is open to debate. Certainly before the injury, Brook seemed to be comfortable. Now, for Brook, the worry is whether he can come back from what has now been confirmed as another eye socket fracture, just as he suffered in his right eye in his previous fight against Gennady Golovkin. Such injuries are always serious for a boxer, and to suffer one to each eye must leave question marks against Brook's future in boxing. As might be sadly expected, there have been some criticisms for Brook ‘quitting’ in the fight, but surely a fighter has the right to decide that he has had enough when he suspects that his eyesight might be in danger. Brook’s decision to drop to his knee when he did, and take the full count, might well have saved him from further injury so that he can fight again. More importantly, it might have saved his eyesight for the rest of his life, long after his boxing career is done.

After the fight, Brook was clear about what had happened to him:

"I remember the surgeon saying last time after the Golovkin fight I could have gone blind if I'd had one more round so I had that in my mind.

"I had to stop. Pride was leading the way but when I got caught in the 11th and it wouldn't come back into line. He was coming on strong and I knew he is a very sharp shooter, a very good fighter and I knew it could be fatal with some of the shots he was chucking in so I went down on one knee.’

"I tried to get the eye back in line, but it wouldn't, and I knew the fight was over."

Photo: The Telegraph

Spence was happy with his victory, yet refreshingly critical of his own performance:

I came out and I tried to do my best tonight. I’m happy I won, but I’m critical of my performance. I was overshooting my left. I give myself a B minus. I had a little trouble overusing my counter left.

Brook is a great fighter, a true champion, but also a tricky fighter. He finds you from tricky angles, and he can fight.’

I came here to his back yard in front of 30,000. That’s what real champions do. I fought a real champion tonight and I proved non-believers that I can fight. I’ve proven I have a chin and I have true grit.

This fight was tougher than I thought it was going to be. I showed I can take a punch and I can throw a punch. I can face adversity and I can win.

Brook went to America to take the title from an American, like a true champion. I came here to his home town to get that title back from him. I wanted to win like true champion, and I did because that is what champions do.

He was hurt. He was tired. He came firing shots, I came firing shots. But there was a moment I realised I had to step up my game and I did.”

Photo: CBS Sports
Spence will now look towards what could be some huge fights at 147 pounds, with the likes of Keith Thurman, Shaun Porter, and Danny Garcia, and even Manny Pacquiao and Terence Crawford.
For Brook, the future is much less clear, and looks to be at 154 pounds, if he does fight again. Which is no certainty after the injury he has suffered.

While the fickle hand of fate seemed to have abandoned Kell Brook last night, earlier on the bill, George Groves finally made the break through that he has been striving for all his career, when he won the vacant WBA world super-middleweight championship after a bruising encounter with Russian iron man, Fedor Chudinov (14-2, 10koes).

Anyone who has followed Groves' career will attest to the fact that fortune has never seemed to smile upon him during his career. Despite the fact that he has done things the hard way during his career, by facing top quality opposition and scoring notable wins over top fighters, George has always been out of luck when fighting for a world title. In his previous three attempts to capture and world championship, Groves has been beaten twice by Carl Froch in two epic bouts, and then narrowly out-pointed by Badou Jack, after seemingly doing more than enough to take victory.

In his last fight Groves' career has been struck by tragedy, after opponent, Eduard Gutknecht, suffered severe injuries in losing on points to Groves, and is still struggling to recover.

Last night though, it finally all came together for Groves against Chudinov.

The match started at a fast pace, with both men landing some brutal punches from the start. Groves had entered the ring visibly keyed up. This was a fight he had said that he couldn’t afford to lose. Perhaps a last chance at winning a world title. This tension seemed to carry on into the fight, as Groves started the match fast, fighting perhaps a little too much with his heart, rather than his head. Chudinov was constantly coming forwards, with hands high, looking to drag Groves into a brawl. Over the first two rounds Groves was landing more punches, but finding himself constantly pushed onto the ropes by his tank-like opponent. By the 3rd round, the fight had developed into a toe-to--toe slugfest, with both men looking to break the other man down.

Groves better variety of punches helped him edge the 4th round, but by now, he was cut over the left eye. For the first half of the 5th Groves showed some signs of tiredness, and the old questions about his stamina started to resurface. Yet Groves finished the round strong, underlying his determination to win this fight.

In the 6th round Groves stepped up several gears, unleashing a prolonged attack of brutal punches upon Chudinov. Although the Russian didn’t go down, he failed to punch back for a prolonged period of time, and took several tremendous punches to the head and chin, until the referee had no choice but to step in and halt the fight.

Photo: Reuters
George Groves had finally done it and won a world championship. Despite the proliferation of world titles in boxing today, winning one is still an achievement, and few fighters today deserve it more than George Groves, who has proved his world class credentials repeatedly for more than half a decade. Now finally he can call himself a world champion and look towards some big fights.

Following his victory, it was an emotional Groves who declared:

I’ve got no words,” Groves said filled of joy. “It’s a lifetime’s work achieved. I’m over the moon. I want to thank everyone who made this happen, Shane McGuigan who has resurrected my career, and now I’m mature enough to admit that he brings the best out of me. In the end, I would have carried on punching until everyone had left and they kicked me out. I wasn’t going to let this belt slip. [Chudinov] was catching me around the back of the head from the start, he has really devastatingly long arms, but I found my feet.”

When asked what he would like to do next, Groves replied:

Photo: Getty Images
Who wants to fight me? I’m sick and tired of chasing people. I’m sure there’s people that want to have a crack at me now. I’m really looking forward to seeing Callum Smith win a WBC belt, truly believe he’s going to do that. Maybe Paul Smith will pick up a world title, maybe me and him can do it again but right now I’m going to savour my win and spend quality time with my family, and celebrate with my wonderful team.”

Groves victory was very popular with the crowd, and one of those cheering the loudest, and standing on his feet, was Groves' old foe, Carl Froch.

There are a number of possible options open to Groves for future opponents, but perhaps the most tantalizing fight would be a rematch with his old rival James Degale, whom he beat in 2011, and who now holds the IBF world super-middleweight title. Their first fight, for the British and Commonwealth titles, was huge, and this time, with world titles at stake, it would be even bigger.

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