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Boxing Rivalries Installent 1: George Groves vs. James DeGale.
Rivalries In Boxing.
One of the elements that makes boxing such an entertaining and beloved sport are the rivalries that has been created among fighters. In a sport that is arguably the most high contact and maybe the deadliest of sports, rivalries can be created in various ways. Whether it's a rematch that leads to a trilogy of fights, a war of words leading up to fight, or an amateur encounter between fighters that follows them into their professional careers, the opportunities for new rivalries never cease.
In 2011, two very talented boxers squared off in the ring at the O2 Arena in London. These two young talents had quite a bit in common heading into their bout against one another. They both shared in the fact that they are English fighters. Both fighters were undefeated when they stepped into the ring, and neither was afraid to take the risk of suffering a loss in what were still young professional careers. However, despite the similarities between George Groves and James DeGale, they differed in one aspect that would make for an exciting fight; they both were arch rivals, that couldn't stand one another.
Although Groves and DeGale are both talented young fighters, they both have a history that will maybe forever link the two. It's the history among the two that would become the crust of what made this fight appealing to boxing fans from all over. The history between the two is also what led to an entertaining, but often quirky amount of trash talk. In this installment of 'Boxing Rivalries', I'm going to discuss the 2011 fight between George Groves and James DeGale.
Brief History of James DeGale, and George Groves.
English fighter James 'Chunky' DeGale wasn't and still isn't considered to be one of the more likable fighters in the sport of boxing. DeGale has been a prolific trash talker towards the majority of his opponents, and has always carried himself in an arrogant, but charismatic manner. While this has appealed to some fans, it's also made DeGale somewhat of a villain in boxing. However, what can't be denied is the level of talent that James DeGale possesses.
James DeGale had an excellent amateur record before turning pro. DeGale won the gold medal in the middleweight boxing event in 2008 while representing Great Britain at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. DeGale amassed a 79-16 amateur record before turning pro in the latter part of 2008. Despite DeGale's accomplishments as an amateur, the rivalry between he and Groves began a few years earlier.
'Saint' George Groves' background is probably a little more unpolished than James DeGales', but is still very impressive. Groves won the Senior ABA(Amateur Boxing Association of England) for his weight in both 2006 and 2007. Besides his championship victories in England, Groves also took part in championship in the United States, Russia, Estonia, Bosnia, and Morocco. Groves finished with an amateur record of 66-10, with 40 of his victories coming by stoppage.
In 2006, Groves and DeGale faced off against each other in an amateur bout that would ultimately lead to the rivalry among the two in the professional ranks. Groves would go on to defeat DeGale in that amateur bout. We now know what would become the significance of that amateur bout. It would be the basis and talk for their 2011 professional fight, with DeGale looking to redeem himself, and Groves seeking to establish himself as the more superior fighter between the two.
Lead Up To the Fight.
Sometimes in sports, the verbal tirades and trash talking is more entertaining than the actual events themselves. In the sport of boxing, trash talking is how many bouts are promoted. Unlike sports such as basketball, football, and baseball that last for a few hours, most professional boxing matches only last up to 36 minutes. Boxing matches are mainly sold by promotion of the fight, or the names of certain fighters. In most cases, the level of trash talking is just business. However, in the case with James DeGale and George Groves, it wasn't just a case of business - it was obviously personal.
After doing research, I found out that the lead up to the Groves vs. Degale fight was nothing short of entertaining. Just like in many other classic boxing rivalries, there were a plethora of verbals jabs traded between the two. James DeGale appeared to be more emotionally invested in this fight. DeGale's attacks on Groves were more personal, as he often referred to Groves as being an "ugly boy", and claimed that he had accomplished everything that Groves had yet to up to that point. This stemmed from DeGale being a former gold medalist in the Olympics unlike Groves. DeGale also expressed that he felt like he was robbed in their amateur bout.
James DeGale and George Groves both came from the same amateur club of boxing, which would lead most people to believe that they were maybe friends at one point right? Wrong! DeGale stated that he and Groves were never friends, and their relationship only consisted of sparring against each other - nothing more. George Groves often pointed out DeGale's arrogance, and how he felt that he beat him fair and square in their amateur fight. The pot for this fight was bubbling, and was soon going to boil over.
The Actual Fight.
On May 21, 2011, all the trash talking would end, and the tension between both fighters would be taken out on each other with their boxing gloves being their weapons of choice. Both James DeGale and George Groves stepped into the ring with undefeated records. DeGale's record was 10-0, while Groves also stood at a perfect 12-0 record. 'Someone's O has to go'. That is a term widely used when two undefeated fighters face each other.
Besides the personal pride between the two being at stake, there were also two championship belts that hung in the balance. DeGale came into the fight as the British super middleweight champion. George Groves stepped into the ring as the Commonwealth champion. As much as the belts mattered in this bout, I imagine that with the personal animosity between the two, the belts most likely had taken a back seat.
Groves appeared to be the crowd favorite in London's O2 Arena. There were a number of boos that rang out from the crowd when DeGale made his way to the ring. The early rounds of the fight were extremely close. Groves used a lot of movement, and spent much of the early rounds dancing around the ring. DeGale was the the bigger looking man during the fight, and was the aggressor as he pursued Groves. Grove's strategy looked to be to hit and move, while DeGale's strategy was to seek and destroy.
Groves continued to dance around the ring and displayed slick boxing tactics, but began to get caught by clean punches from James DeGale in the middle rounds of the fight. If there was any round of the fight that I would consider to be the turning point, I would say it came in the 9th round. DeGale came out aggressively and had George Groves backpedaling for much of the round. Both fighters suffered cuts in the 9th round as well. Near the end of the ninth round, DeGale caught Groves with a straight right, followed up by a left that staggered Groves. Groves appeared to be hurt, but would make it out of the round.
Probably feeling a sense of urgency, Groves fought back hard in round 10, as he peppered DeGale to the face and body. DeGale also scored on some solid punches in the tenth. Both fighters left it all on the table in the finals rounds, and the bout went the distance. When the decision was read by announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., the scores were 115-115, 115-114, and 115-114. The judges narrowly awarded the victory to George Groves by majority decision. The result was met with excitement by the crowd. However, many fans and analyst alike felt like DeGale deserved the win. DeGale indeed pressed the fight, and seemed to land the more effective punches on Groves.
Will James DeGale and George Groves square off again?
The Aftermath, and The Future?
With the victory, George Groves retained his Commonwealth championship belt, and also claimed the British super middleweight title from James DeGale. Following the aftermath of the fight, James DeGale expressed that he felt that he won the fight, and requested in an immediate rematch with George Groves. What a surprise right? Feeling that he had beaten James DeGale now two times, Groves dismissed any immediate interest in fighting DeGale once again.
Since fighting each other, both James DeGale and George Groves have marched on in their still young professional careers. James DeGale now maintains a 16-1 record, and to this day still wants another shot at Groves. George Groves on the other hand is still undefeated with an impressive 19-0 record.
It's been two years since the fight between Groves and DeGale, and their names are still popping up in respect to one another. It's plausible to assume that these two talented boxers paths will cross again someday. George Groves is 25 years old, and James DeGale is still primed at the age of 27. Their two fights against each other may very well have just been the beginning of the bitter rivalry among the two.