“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” (Thomas Edison)
Giving up is not a weakness that is present in George Groves. He stepped out at Bramall Lane on Saturday night for his fourth world title fight. His record to this point? Three attempts, three defeats. After many attempts at reaching world level some level of doubt must have formed in his mind, at least unconsciously. To earn a chance to win the top prize in boxing is an achievement, to continue to rebuild after set backs is something far greater.
His opponent was Fedor Chudinov. The Russian was considered the underdog. It was felt by the boxing world that this was Groves’ greatest chance of winning a world title to date. Chudinov had been out of the ring since early 2016. Before this layoff he suffered his first defeat in a rematch against Felix Sturm. The Russian had beat Sturm to be crowned champion in 2015. Those fights were for the WBA super middleweight belt. The belt that Chudinov had won and then lost to the same opponent. The belt that was now vacated by Sturm, Chudinov would be fighting Groves for in Sheffield.
The Russian had defended the title in England when he was champion. He travelled to London in between of his two fights with Sturm to fight Frank Buglioni. This fight saw Chudinov go toe to toe with his opponent and come out comfortably on top in a unanimous decision win.
Groves himself had fought twice for the WBA crown in two of British Boxing’s biggest bouts. A memorable pair of fights against Carl Froch that gave Groves the chance to win the IBF title as well. The first fight ended in the most controversial fashion. Groves fought a perfect fight early on. He had Froch down in the first and dominated the first half. Froch rallied late but it looked as though he needed to get his opponent out of there to win the contest. The referee stopped it, in many peoples opinion too soon, in the ninth round. Obviously the nature of the fight meant that Froch was forced to fight Groves again to justify the result.
In the rematch which until recently held the post war record for attendance at a boxing match came to a more conclusive finish. The fight began a boom in British boxing that we are seeing the results of today with so many great fighters coming out of Britain. Froch’s experience gave him an edge in the build up. It was a mega fight on these shores. Again Groves started well. His hand speed incredible as usual. In the eighth round Froch landed a heavy well timed right hand that put sudden and dramatic end to the rivalry.
The saint began to rebuild after the defeats and won his next two fights. This set up another chance at glory. His opponent on this occasion Badou Jack. The prize up for grabs? The WBC super middleweight crown. Groves travelled to the States and the fight took place on the undercard of a Floyd Mayweather JR card. The fight was close and Jack did enough in the eyes of two of the judges to give him a split decision victory.
A third loss at this level must have been so difficult to swallow for London fighter. Rumours at the time hinted that Groves would quit the sport. Instead, we got a change in coach. Groves and Adam Booth parted company and Shane McGuigan took over. The change saw Grove get back on track winning four straight fights after the team change. The most notable of these against Martin Murray, a fight in which Groves boxed beautifully and won on all three scorecards.
After another unanimous decision victory against Eduard Gutknecht and the opportunity to fight for the WBA title against Chudinov came. It was a chance that could not be turned down by the Groves camp and the fight was confirmed.
Chudinov offered a lot early. Great pressure and he was willing to walk forward constantly. The Englishman was pushed back but never looked too uncomfortable. He stayed calm and control. The saint started to work more in the second round and showed just how one dimensional the ex-champions strategy was. In the sixth Groves landed a powerful right hand. It hurt Chudinov. What followed was a whirlwind of shots flying from the Saints fists. You could see the passion in this burst of punches. Groves recognised this was his moment and was going to do everything he could to confirm himself as a world champion. In the end referee had no choice but to stop the fight with the Russian unable to defend himself from the barrage that Groves had forced on him.
A dream achieve for the Saint and done so in spectacular fashion. His hard work and dedication to boxing rewarded with the status that is attached to being a world champion. Finally he has done it. His mental strength and ability to return from setbacks has been vital in his journey. Gone are the feelings of fear that one more defeat could end his lifelong ambition. Excitement now takes over for the Hammersmith born fighter as he will go on to defend his title and perhaps add more titles to his name.
Congratulations George Groves.