Super-middleweight George 'The Saint' Groves is undoubtedly one of the most exciting boxers on the planet. With a deadly combination of speed, power and ring smarts the Hammersmith boxer looks destined to conquer the Super Middleweight division.
Groves has always shown star potential - as an amateur he recorded 75 bouts, two senior ABA titles, nine international gold medals, and defeated Olympic middleweight gold medallist James Degale in the 2006 ABAs. A former child kickboxer, Groves was a regular on Eurosport broadcasts at age 13. He won four world junior titles and an EKU title live on television. Claiming he was ‘shy’ as a youth, Groves quickly snapped out of this fear of the limelight as superstardom loomed.
In 2008 he signed professional terms with David Haye and Adam Booth to become part of the fledling Hayemaker stable. And it wasn't long before he made his debut, taking a six round points decision over Kiril Psonko at London's O2 Arena. Five straight knock out victories soon followed, including an impressive first round stoppage of former British title challenger Paul Samuels in Liverpool.
Then, in bout number nine, Groves claimed his first professional title, against former Carl Froch opponent Charles Adamu. Despite conceding experience, Groves knocked the champion down three times en route to an impressive sixth round win that saw him claim the Commonwealth title.
Groves went on to defend that title against unbeaten Scot Kenny Anderson in what proved to be his toughest fight to date. An explosive opening three rounds saw Groves touch the canvas for the first time as a professional, but it wasn't long before the Saint returned fire, stopping his man in the sixth round of a memorable up-and-down domestic war.
"By the time I got on top of Anderson, I was shattered, but never thought about holding back or saving energy", remembered Groves. "At that point I was going all-out and knew I had a short window of opportunity in which to finish the fight. As soon as I saw him crease up from a few shots, to body and head, I knew I needed to step on the gas and get him out of there."
If the Anderson victory showcased his guts and determination, a May 2011 blockbuster with James DeGale owed a lot to Groves' intelligence and ring generalship. In what was a hugely anticpated match-up, long-time rivals Groves and DeGale squared off in front of a sell-out O2 Arena for the British and Commonwealth titles. And to the delight of a partizan crowd, it was Groves who emerged victorious, taking a majority decision verdict after twelve stirring rounds.
"I was so relaxed and happy that night", he said. "I remember being in the
changing room beforehand and looking around at my tiny crew of people and feeling so much pride. We were boxing on another promoter's show, in the away changing room, and we were brought in to lose to the Olympic gold medallist. The whole crowd were on my side, I knew that, but how many of them truly believed I was going to win? The guys close to me did, but that was only a small circle of people. All the so-called experts had been singing DeGale's praises since day one, and were drunk on him after he'd beaten Paul Smith. None of those guys backed me. It didn't matter, though. I just felt so happy".
Groves followed up victory over DeGale with two successive frightening knockouts - stopping former British champion Paul Smith in two before heading out to America to stop Francisco Sierra in six in San Jose, California. A frustrating 2012 - which saw Groves forced to withdraw from a world title shot against WBO champion Robert Steiglitz due to injury - was ended in style, as Groves cruised to a near shut-out points win over veteran former world champion Glen Johnson.
2013 saw the Saint record three straight stoppage victories, including a big win against highly ranked Uruguayan Noe Gonzalez Alcoba on the undercard of Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler's double world title fight at the O2 Arena, setting up a November showdown with the winner - Carl Froch.
In a stunning start to the fight, Groves floored Froch heavily and was dominating the contest until the WBA and IBF champion hurt the challenger with a determined assault in the ninth.
Groves was on unsteady legs, but referee Howard Foster stepped in far too swiftly to signal the end of a thrilling super-middleweight clash.
Froch had struggled to cope with the younger man's speed and appeared to be heading for defeat, with all three judges scoring the fight in Groves' favour, before victory was snatched away in contentious fashion.
The controversial ending to the fight drew calls for a rematch immediately and - on Feb 13th, live on Sky Sports - the contract was finally signed, as the two men agreed to do it all again in a blockbuster rematch on May 31st.
The pair squared off in front of 80,000 fans (the biggest post war attendance for any boxing event in the UK) at Wembley Stadium. Despite losing out on the night, Groves proved once again that he belonged at the very top level of the sport.
And sure enough, The Saint bounced back in his next fight, dominating European champion Christopher Rebrasse at Wembley Arena in a return bout that saw him secure the mandatory position for the WBC world title, before finishing the year by stopping American Denis Douglin in seven rounds. In 2015 he travelled to the United States to challenge WBC champion Badou Jack.The Las Vegas bout was a tight affair, with Jack taking a split decision points victory, but the Saint has bounced back in 2016 as he begins a fresh assault on the world championship. Three dominant displays have seen Groves stop Italian Andrea Di Luisa in five rounds and unbeaten Scot David Brophy in just four, before a superb performance to ouclass Martin Murray over 12 rounds in June, positioning Groves right back on the brink of another world title tilt.
George has three role models; he’s a big fan of Oscar De La Hoya, and closer to home would like to emulate the style and success of David Haye. Then there’s the tattoo which adorns George’s mid-section; it’s Mars the Roman god of war, one of the most worshipped and revered gods in ancient Rome. It acts as a symbol of energy, action; of lust and passion and brings George strength as the fighter and protector.
“In the few remaining minutes before I enter the ring I don’t fear anything; I feel like I can take on the world and conquer it.”
Ratings - World: 3/1,279
Ratings - British: 2/52
Residence: London, UK
Won: 25 (KO18)
Rounds Boxed: 176