By: Niki Ross
Last week saw the Matchroom card “British Beef” take place at the London O2 Arena, the main event pitted Olympian Lawrence Okolie against the skilled prospect Issac Chamberlain.
This was promoted as a grudge match between two hungry prospects at the start of their career looking to chalk up the first significant win over a local rival. Unfortunately, despite one of the fighters being nicknamed “Sauce”, the main event of British Beef turned out to be pretty tough to swallow.
All eyes will now be turning to Feb 17th. This fight should be close and action is nothing short of certain. Both fighters look to secure a place in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament against Callum Smith and both fighters have had wars in sparring previously. History and bad blood makes this an intriguing fixture.
Chris Eubank Jr is pencilled as the bookmaker’s favourite. His recent wins have been a display of eye watering hand speed and versatile punch selection. He is comfortable lashing in five and six punch combinations which often pass in the blink of an eye. As with most young athletes these days he has also taken to YouTube to help raise his stock with footage of sparring and tearing apart punch bags. Regularly putting the hurt on unwitting sparring partners in a grandiose display of poor sportsman which smells like it has Eubank Snr’s influence all over it.
To the casual fan, Eubank Jr will be an attractive fighter to invest time and money in. Loosely following the Mayweather blueprint, he likes to showboat and entertain with gym clips and cute training montages. Take a look at his boxing record however and you’ll see that its built on soft ground. He’s yet to face an elite level fighter. On his day Billy Joe Saunders is world class and that’s where Eubank Jr came unstuck previously. Since that loss he has failed to up the standard of competition to a level where he really tests himself and learns the crucial lessons about swimming in deep waters. Of his 20 KO’s only one has been a straight knockout, the rest were all TKO’s. Chris Eubank Jr, for all his gusto, lacks knockout power.
George Groves has previously walked the walk and he’s consistently fought tougher opposition. A new partnership with trainer Shane McGuigan has sparked a renaissance in George Groves winning a world title in the process. Unlike Eubank Jr, Groves has punching power which can stop a man dead. Carl Froch went down for the second time in his colourful career when Groves delivered a solid right hand, the Cobra was not a man who was easily hurt.
The physical attributes of both fighters will probably be where this fight is won or lost. Eubank Jr is not a big 168lb’er and his lack of knockout power highlights this. If he maintains a high punch output he should see out a victory, a stoppage is possible, George Groves is not a hard man to hit. Groves on the other hand is the natural super middleweight, he has power, he hits hard. He’s seen off a number of quality opponents and the experience will give him an extra advantage in this fight. If he can withstand Eubank Jr’s ferocious onslaughts his power and experience could prevail in the later rounds. Eubank has a very slim torso, some early body work could take the wind out of his sails if Groves can find his way in.
This is a good match up which will answer more questions than it creates. If Eubank Jr scores an impressive victory he has to be taken serious as a top contender at super middleweight. If Groves picks up the win it cements his status in the divison as a dangerous title holder. His CV is rich with credible opponents and career defining fights. He seldom made it easy for himself, his victories have not always been convincing but he’s come through them and in the process learned more about himself and the sport than his opponent. It is refreshing that with this tournament, boxing has produced such an organic means of crowning the best fighter in a division. For these two fighters however, this fight already brings the gravity of a final, in terms of significance, this fight is the one which neither fighter can afford to lose.