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FORMER two-time world title challenger Jim McDonnell – the trainer of ex-IBF super-middleweight king James DeGale – has had his say on the upcoming clash between two of his charge’s biggest rivals. George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr were both quick to comment on social media when their foe DeGale lost his IBF belt to Caleb Truax two months ago, but this Saturday (February 17), it will be McDonnell and DeGale watching on as the two super-middleweights contest Groves’ WBA crown in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final.
Here, McDonnell analyses the fight, pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of both boxers, and stating who he thinks will come out on top at Manchester Arena.
“It’s an interesting fight that’s captured the imagination, but I can’t believe that Eubank is the favourite with the bookmakers. If his name wasn’t Eubank – if it was Chris Smith or Chris Anderson instead – he wouldn’t be the favourite.
“If you look at Groves, he’s mixed with the likes of James DeGale and Carl Froch. Eubank hasn’t beaten anyone. This fight is really a tried, tested and proven fighter against a hot prospect. Groves is very, very experienced. Look at his amateur pedigree compared to Eubank’s. They’re gulfs apart. I don’t think Eubank realises what a difficult job he’s got on his hands here. He’s got a great mentality, but is he really a super-middleweight?
“Eubank stepped up in class before, against Billy Joe Saunders, and he lost. He’s now stepping up again, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s made the necessary improvements. I know he fell short against Saunders, but he still boxed at a bloody good level that night and done himself proud. That will stand him in great stead for the Groves fight. If he didn’t have Saunders on his record, I’d be saying, ‘No, not in a million years will he beat Groves.’
“The big question in this fight is, is the timing right for Eubank? Has George just gone over the top now after some hard fights in his career – is he past it? Has Eubank timed it perfectly? Groves will have a young, fiery Eubank in front of him, who’s very ambitious, very hungry, very determined. If Groves has passed his sell-by date as a fighter, this could be the perfect chance for Eubank.
“If Groves is past it, then he’s fighting the wrong person, because Eubank’s got energy, work rate, fitness. He’ll be hustling and bustling all night. If Groves has slipped, then Eubank’s hustle and bustle will get him the win on a points verdict. But if Groves is still on his game, it’s going to be hard for Eubank to get into the fight. Groves is a unit, he’s got a great jab and he can punch. If both are at their best, I’d edge towards Groves on points because of his experience.”