George Groves Achieves Sainthood, Is It time For James DeGale To Play His Wild Card?

A cracking fight saw the two bitter rivals separated by only two points, George Groves will wake up this morning looking for a world title shot, but should James DeGale be looking to follow Amir Khan west?
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A cracking fight saw the two bitter rivals separated by only two points, George Groves will wake up this morning looking for a world title shot, but should James DeGale be looking to follow Amir Khan west?

Against a backdrop of malevolence, spite, hate, opprobrium, spit, screaming and swearing, George Groves defeated James DeGale in a proper tear-up that left 80% of the crowd literally dribbling with glee. Trust me, I’ve got it all down my shirt, a mix of becks, bile and bu*****t.

When it all comes down to it, despite DeGale probably thinking he’d done enough in the latter half of the fight, he started slowly and was shown up tactically by George Groves. Boxing off the back foot, a plan honed against Andre Dirrell in sparring by the crafty Adam Booth, Groves landed several corking right hands to the body in the opening rounds and answered every speculative rally by his opponent with two and three shot combos that landed. To the layman, up in the gods and drunk as a lord, DeGale won this fight by moving forward and throwing fast combinations. But up close, 12 feet from the muck and bullets, too much of his work landed off target and, even if it could’ve gone either way, Groves was a worthy, blood-drenched winner.

But then you saw all of this.

What you didn’t see is the morons who question the sexuality and bravery of men who are prepared to stand toe-to-toe for 12 rounds, or the boxing purists, sat around me who flip and drag them down off seats, offer them outside and, in no uncertain terms, tell them to sit the f*** down.

To the layman, up in the gods and drunk as a lord, DeGale won this fight by moving forward and throwing fast combinations.

You don’t see the old blokes in the boozer beforehand, using a lifetime of knowledge, hewn in a youth club in Norwich, or Cornwall, or Solihull, telling you tactically why Groves would have too much, why Haye will floor Klitschko and why no one, not Pacquiao or anyone, will beat Pretty Boy Floyd.

Don’t get me wrong. They want him to lose, they just don’t see it.

You don’t see the f***wits, unconscious on the khazi before the four rounders have finished, you don’t see the pillocks begging strangers for coke in the bogs, the stewards who get dogs abuse for doing the jobs and the catering staff who get worse for not pulling pints quickly enough.

F**k MMA, the whole experience of a live boxing match is as close as we get to the Coliseum, you are fully aware that death could be on your doorstep and you know that crushed pride will be served up cold.

Earlier in the evening, still steady on four pints and yet to be drenched by my own sweat, I watched Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders continue the collective march towards world title fights. Saunders hits hard, fast and with a variety that was unseen in any of the fights on offer while Gavin can’t be hit, his body is like an ironing board operated by a blind alcoholic, never still, constantly moving, always just out of reach of flailing hands.

If you saw Gavin’s fight, you also saw Derek Chisora and Tyson Fury square up in the crowd. Chisora, wearing a shirt too tight for a Middleweight, was dragged out by Frank Warren. Fury took his top off. All this served to do was fire-up a baying crowd, and it wouldn’t be the first fracas of the evening not governed by the Marquis Of Queensbury.

Gavin can’t be hit, his body is like an ironing board operated by a blind alcoholic, never still, constantly moving, always just out of reach of flailing hands.

Judging by the way it was stopped, neither was Nathan Cleverley’s fight. What was meant to be a glorious coronation night for Cleverly was fittingly stopped for a cut that had stopped bleeding. He’s had a shi** week has Clev, but he’s the world champion, he’s unbeaten, he’s on an upward curve.

James DeGale would love to say that.

I wrote a piece six months ago saying that I believed James DeGale would be our next boxing superstar. He’d just beaten Paul Smith and had looked classy and destructive doing it, I’m happy to admit, for now, that I was wrong.

I read a quote yesterday from George Groves that basically said that DeGale’s trainer can do nothing but blow smoke up his a**e because he is fragile, he can’t handle negativity. He, on the other hand, welcomes criticism and tries to build on it. That, of course, is speculation, but there is no doubt that Groves was spot on tactically.

DeGale made the mistake of trying to fight a two-stop fight and simply got caught in the headlights in the first four rounds, Groves had said that he wouldn’t allow anger to come into it and he was right. DeGale walked in expecting to meet a whirlwind with no direction and pick him off, instead he met a cool breeze with a dynamite kick.

This is not to say that DeGale boxed badly. His work-rate improved throughout the fight and when he landed he appeared to have the heavier hands of the two. His legs remained strong in the face of some vicious combos from Groves, his footwork was impeccable and, with only two points separating the pair, neither man was found wanting.

If James DeGale wants to truly comeback from this and reach the top of the pile, he perhaps needs a trainer who will question him, remould him and maximise every ounce of natural ability while also working on his flaws.

There will, of course, be a rematch. The mutual hatred will only intensify and there is no good argument as to why they shouldn’t fight again. This is the best domestic rivalry since Benn and Eubank and, even if Groves now leads in 2-0, DeGale should be give a chance to remove the 0 from the record of his nemesis.

For what it is worth I think a change of scene would do DeGale the world of good. He looked surprised last night at the weight of support but he only has himself to blame. He said too much, taunted too often and allowed words to eclipse his talent.

Adam Booth showed tonight that he is the second best trainer in the world, behind only Freddie Roach when it comes to getting boxers in physical, tactical and mental shape. If James DeGale wants to truly comeback from this and reach the top of the pile, he perhaps needs a trainer who will question him, remould him and maximise every ounce of natural ability while also working on his flaws.

Pacquiao went to Roach with three losses on his card and is now the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, Amir Khan went as a busted flush and came of age against the freakishly powerful Marcos Maidana. James DeGale cannot afford to lose again, certainly not against George Groves.

It’s time for him to play his Wild Card.

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