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A tale of two chins: Jack vs. Groves

Photo © Idris Erba/Mayweather Promotions
Photo © Idris Erba/Mayweather Promotions

By John J. Raspanti


When they meet on September 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV, newly-crowned WBC super-middleweight champion Badou Jack and challenger George Groves could be playing a game of "Who’s Got The Stronger Chin?"

Jack was shockingly knocked out in the first round by journeyman Dereck Edwards last year—while Groves was laid out by Carl Froch before 80,000 rabid boxing fans at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Groves understands the reality of the situation. He was stopped in consecutive fights by then-champion Froch--once controversially, and six months later, emphatically.


"We’ve both been knocked out before and people will be looking at that,” Groves told Sky Sports News HQ last week. “He got blitzed in one round and maybe he got caught cold."

Jack takes full responsibility for his loss.

“It wasn’t really a lucky punch, so I’m not making excuses, but he’s (Edwards) is not on my level,” Jack said at a press conference last month. “I wasn’t supposed to lose. I threw a lazy jab and got caught, so it was my fault.”

Groves, 27, of England, says he’s moved on from his knockout loss.

“I haven’t had to justify ‘I got caught cold’ or ‘it was a lucky punch. Whatever,” said Groves during a media conference call a few days ago.” I’ve faced it. Dealt with it head-on, addressed it, corrected it.”

Some might call Groves "lucky" to get another crack at a world title after losing in back-to-back bouts. His first fight with Froch was a donnybrook, as Groves, a heavy underdog going into the bout, floored Froch in the opening stanza. Froch rose and battled, but was clearly behind when referee Howard Foster, probably aware of Groves’ reputation for running out of gas, stopped the match in round nine. The ensuing uproar forced Froch to take on Groves again.

The rematch happened six months later. Through seven rounds, the match was close, but in round eight Groves made a mistake. As he backed into the ropes and set himself to throw a left hook, Froch feinted, drawing Groves’ eyes to his own left and let fly with a heat-seeking right hand. The punch landed flush on Groves’ chin and dropped him with a thud. Referee Charlie Fitch immediately waved off the contest at 2:34 seconds of round eight. Groves did rise, but then fell into the referee’s arms.

Though he was fine physically after the knock out, Groves was in a mental fog.

“To be honest, it was a very difficult period of my career,” Groves told Manouk Akopyan of www.theguardian.com. Since his two losses, Groves (19-2, 15 KOs) has won a couple of fights in a row, including capturing the European title, but he’s looked sluggish at times.

Jack was 16-0 when he met Edwards in 2014 at the Turning Point Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. Jack was expected to win with ease. Edwards had dropped his previous match and wasn’t looked at as much of a threat. Instead, after only a minute of punching, the fight was over.

Edwards timed Jack perfectly by stepping back and countering with a slinging right hand. Down goes Jack. He got up smiling, but his legs couldn’t hold him. He staggered, struggling to survive. A clubbing right hand put him down for the second time. The referee shook his head and stopped the fight.

At ringside, Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose company promotes Jack, was shocked. So was everyone else. Jack returned to the ring six months later to win a decision over Jason Escalera. Late last year, he ventured to the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX and stopped Francisco Sierra.

Jack (19-1, 12 KOs) was a slight underdog when he challenged WBC super-middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell last April in Chicago. Dirrell got off to good start by outboxing Jack, but the Las Vegas-based Swedish-Gambian kept up the pressure. When Dirrell began to tire in the late rounds, Jack used a terrific jab to set up some effective bodywork. The rally won him the fight by a majority decision.

Stamina could also be a contributing factor on who ultimately has his hand raised in victory this Saturday. The edge here appears to go to Jack, who got stronger as the rounds progressed in his fight against Dirrell.

The same can’t be said for Groves. He seemed to be running out of gas in both of his losses. To counter this perception, or perhaps the reality, Groves has spent the last past eight weeks training in the mountains at Big Bear, CA.

He’s confident in his conditioning.

“Anyone who wants to base a game plan around me, around stamina, hoping that I’m going to fade and get tired... I’d never do that for any fight,” Groves said.“Because one day that guy ain’t going to get tired, and I certainly ain’t going to get tired.

"I’m going to be full-steam ahead, from the first second to the last, and I’m really looking forward to it."

Jack is just as confident as Groves--though in a more modest way.

“I think I’m a smarter fighter than George Groves," said Jack “The aim of the game is to hit and not get hit. It’s a fifty-fifty fight. I don’t need to need to talk all that trash and stuff to build confidence. I don’t do that.”

The last word on the fight goes to retired former champion Foch who penned a column last week that included a prediction on the bout.

“I hope George Groves wins the world title out in Vegas,” wrote Froch. “On top of that I think he can do a job on Badou Jack and I think he is good enough – even if I do think he has peaked.”

- TO WRITE FOR DOGHOUSE BOXING: E-mail John now at: marlow_58@hotmail.com
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: marlow_58@hotmail.com



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