Fit-again George Groves relishing super fight in Jeddah

Fit-again George Groves relishing super fight in Jeddah
George Groves is in training for the fight with Callum Smith. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2018
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Fit-again George Groves relishing super fight in Jeddah

Fit-again George Groves relishing super fight in Jeddah
  • Sept. fight will be held at King Abdullah Sports City
  • 'Now we’ve got a proper date we can make a proper plan'

George Groves is waiting to learn whether his World Boxing Super Series final against Callum Smith in Saudi Arabia will be staged outside at a stadium or inside an arena.
The WBA super-middleweight champion has been intensifying his preparations for facing Smith since confirmation of the Sept. 28 bout, which will take place at the King Abdullah Sports City complex in Jeddah. Groves has been passed fit to fight having recovered from a career-threatening dislocated shoulder. The original fight was due to take place at a UK venue in July but had to be postponed after Groves suffered the injury in the semifinal win against Chris Eubank Jr.
An operation, which included screws being inserted into his shoulder joint, and his subsequent rehabilitation program mean Groves has already returned to sparring and is convinced he will be fully fit come fight night having previously feared he faced retiring in his prime.
The lengthy wait for a fight date has worked in Groves’ favor, allowing the 30-year-old the recovery time he required. It has also allowed World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) chiefs the chance to recompense Saudi Arabia with a top-level fight after the Murat Gassiev vs. Oleksandr Usyk title bout was moved from Jeddah to Moscow.
Now all that is left for General Sports Authority and WBSS organizers to decide is whether or not the fight takes place under a roof.
“Neither of us would appreciate fighting outdoors in that heat and humidity but who knows?” said Groves in an interview with Arab News. “I’m pretty sure they’re (the tournament organizers) sensible. It’s a big stadium but there are indoor arenas attached. I can’t imagine they are looking at selling 70,000 tickets for this fight and doing it outside, so it’s most likely that it will be an indoor arena with some air conditioning.
“Otherwise, it’s no longer a fight is it? It’s something else. It’s an endurance challenge to see who wants it most.”
Groves last fought abroad almost three years ago when he lost to Badou Jack in Las Vegas, but he has no qualms heading over to the Middle East for the first time now the final has been rescheduled.
“It’s really hard to make a proper plan without a proper date,” he said. “It took them so much time because they were deciding whether to do it in the UK or Saudi Arabia. It worked out that there’s more incentives to have it abroad, and they’ve had to find a date in the calendar that doesn’t clash with other big fights.
“It wasn’t going to be the week before because they didn’t want to go head-to-head with Wembley Stadium (when Anthony Joshua fights Alexander Povetkin). It’s a date we can now work toward, put that stress behind us, and we’re good to go.
“Now we’ve got a proper date we can make a proper plan, so we’ve stepped the rehab up, and it’s good we know exactly what we’re working to. Fortunately they’ve come up with a September date, which works well for me, works well for Smith. He’s had a few niggles after his last fight in camp, so we now get the final everyone wants.”
Groves is trained by Shane McGuigan and they have already put in place some key parts of their preparations for fight week.
“I have some friends who have been out there for events and it’s not really a tourist destination, but luckily a good friend of mine is well connected out there, so our accommodation is sorted and we have our own gym sorted, so a few things that could be stressful have been eradicated,” Groves added in an interview with Sky Sports.
“Of course, no one knows if it will be busy or not or if there will be loads of British fans out there and we will wait to find out, but as long as I can get my team out there, everyone else can follow.
“We haven’t decided when we’re going out yet but everything is in place. The announcement gave us the full eight-week camp, which is what we usually have, and the shoulder is fine. Absolutely fine.”
Groves secured perhaps his most authoritative victory when, in February’s semifinal at the Manchester Arena, he earned a unanimous decision over Eubank Jr., his rival as the 168lbs WBSS’ biggest name.
The polished performance followed a stoppage of fellow Briton Jamie Cox in the quarter-final that also represented his first title defense, and the continuation of the momentum he had built when first becoming a champion by previously stopping Fedor Chudinov of Russia.
“I’ve had some great experiences in boxing, (the semifinal) was one of them, it wasn’t the best but it was a very good one,” he said.
“They were so excited to make me and Eubank Jr. — they made it and they announced it. Me and Smith have had injuries so they had to think about the date.
“The amount of recovery time between the semifinal and the final, it’s a case of the longer the better. But we’ve been in the gym training so it will feel like a long camp by the end of it. That was always going to be the case because we had spent so much time rehabilitating the shoulder but I’m still eight weeks out from the fight, feeling fresh. Weight’s good, mindset’s good and my body is conditioned now.
“The worrying thing when you have that much time out is you come back and it takes you six weeks to even pretend to feel like an athlete. That’s when your muscles take a while to respond to the work and you’re aching for days after the sessions. But we’re good to go. We are pushing it now with the sparring and it’s so far, so good.”
Groves’ wife Sophie this summer gave birth to their second son, Albie, but his fight preparations and rehabilitation means he has so far had little involvement in his care.
“My wife’s fantastic,” he said. “This is probably the hardest part for her and I feel for her. But she understands that I have to be selfish at times. When she has had no sleep, she has to get up to feed our two-year-old (Teddy) and leaves me in bed. I feel guilty, but I manage to sleep through that guilt.
“We’ve got good family support, so we’re OK.”