DeGale and Groves prepare for battle
By Clive Bernath: If you’d asked me a year ago who would win the battle between bitter amateur rivals James DeGale and George Groves I’d have to edge towards 23 year-old Groves.
The judgement was not only made on the strength that Groves looked mighty impressive in breaking down African tough guy Charles Adamu inside six rounds to claim the Commonwealth super-middleweight title in only his ninth fight as opposed to DeGale’s more cautious path to a title. But also, just about every amateur contact I’d spoken to in west London, where the pair boxed for Dale Youth Club ABC, pretty much said the same thing, ’If Groves and DeGale ever fight as pros there’s only one winner-George Groves all day long’. That was 12 months ago, now those same knowledgeable people still say there is only one winner but this time James DeGale is the name being touted around.
To be fair I’d have had to go along with Groves a year ago but 12 months is a long time in boxing and since then DeGale has improved considerably while Groves , for me, has lost his way a bit and taken his eye off the ball. They say a boxer is only as good as his last fight(or two in Groves’ case) and that opinion appears to ring true here.
Although DeGale came into the pro ranks as an Olympic Gold medallist he did take a while to settle into the pro game while Groves, a two time ABA middleweight champion, made the transition effortlessly like a duck to water.
But like I say, a year is a long time in professional boxing and Groves failed to sparkle in struggling to dispatch Scottish boxer Kenny Anderson. DeGale, on the other hand, looked sensational in ripping the British super-middleweight crown from a highly experienced and peak Paul Smith.
On May 21 we will have to wait no longer because the pair will finally clash in a domestic title double header at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London. Nathan Cleverly’s WBO light-heavyweight title challenge may officially be the top of the bill but all eyes will be on the grudge match between two of British boxing’s bitterest rivals.
One would have thought that the two former Amateur team mates would be close friends but DeGale insists the bitterness is for real.
"I can’t see me and ugly kid making up.,” insisted DeGale “After I knock him out I might shake his hand but after that I don’t even want to hear that boy’s name again. "This ain’t acting. We genuinely don’t like each other. The rivalry goes back years. He has lived half his life in my shadow.
"It’s not messing around. In domestic fights people usually build it up as a grudge match but this is genuine. The background from when he beat me in the ABAs to when we were both trying to win a domestic title first as professionals ... It’s Benn v Eubank number two. I’ll keep calling him ugly kid because that’s what he is to me. He is ugly and he is a kid. It’s a fact. It’s reality.
Whilst DeGale is very much in your face and outspoken, Groves is quite the opposite, instead preferring to do his talking in the ring.
At the recent press conference to announce this eagerly awaited battle DeGale unleashed a volley of verbal insults in Groves direction as the more introverted Groves sat patiently, apart from the odd remark in defence.
It is indeed an intriguing battle, a potential domestic clash of the year. DeGale may well start a slight favourite on current form but there is more than just the British and Commonwealth titles at stake here. The title of super-middleweight champion of West London as well as bragging rights is equally important, which is why this particular battle could turn out to be a real barn burner.
March 31, 2011