By: Ste Rowen
On Monday George ‘Saint’ Groves, former WBA super-middleweight champion, last seen fighting in the World Boxing Super Series final last September, has announced his retirement from boxing.
Playing a significant part of one of Britain’s most iconic sporting events, Groves leaves behind a legacy that will inspire future sportsmen and women, not just boxers.
In a snippet of the statement made via Instagram Groves said,
‘‘After taking a little time to reflect on the recent events in my career I have decided that it is time for me to retire as a professional fighter. In 2017 I boxed in front of a home crowd in Sheffield and became WBA super-middleweight world champion. After four attempts I had finally fulfilled my childhood dream and the experience was as great as I had always imagined it would be.
…Although we step through the ropes on our own, of course every fighter is backed by a team and not just the ones in the corner. There are many, many people that have helped me on my way to fulfilling my boxing dreams.
…I don’t want there to be a time where I’m ‘too old’ to box on or where an injury retires me in or out of the ring…I want to respectfully bow out while I’m still at the top of my game.’’
Groves also mentioned former opponent, Edward Gutknecht, who suffered life changing injuries after their 2016 bout,
‘‘A prayer for Edward Gutknecht who suffered a brain aneurysm after our fight in November 2016. He was put into an induced coma for 3 weeks and bravely fought his way back to consciousness. He lives in Germany with his wife, 3 children and a full-time carer…After winning the WBA world title I decided to only continue fighting while it felt necessary.’’
The full statement can be read here; https://www.instagram.com/p/BtLTP-8FHuC/
Now formally retired George’s professional record stands at 28-4 (20KOs), within that time achieving accolades that include the British, Commonwealth and ‘Super’ WBA super-middleweight belts. By the time he was 10-0, he had fought in Germany, Las Vegas and all over the UK, and already held the Lonsdale and Rainbow titles.
When Ricky Hatton made his unsuccessful return at the beginning of 2013, a void for British boxing needed to be filled, and Groves, along with Carl Froch filled it with firstly, their Manchester Arena fight in November that same year, which ended in controversy and then the super-event and ’80,000 people at Wembley’ in 2014.
Groves is the every-man boxer. A balding, pale, loud mouth challenger that got under the skin of the chiselled, unified 168lb champion at the time, Carl Froch. He went into his two most famous fights with avid supporters and rabid doubters. Even after getting knocked out in the rematch he was gracious in defeat.
Time and again he proved he was leagues above British, European and fringe level, sweeping aside the likes of Paul Smith, Charles Adamu a veteran Glen Johnson, and many years later, Martin Murray; as well as scoring a decision victory over Olympic gold medallist, and future world champion, James DeGale early on in both their careers.
When the time came to return to big time boxing, 14 months on from the Froch rematch, he travelled to Vegas to fight WBC champion, Badou Jack. Hitting the canvas in the first round, the Brit fought out to ultimately a split decision loss and it felt George was back to square one.
On the comeback trail from the Jack defeat George proved once again he was capable of challenging at the top again, stopping David Brophy and dominating Murray over 12 rounds, until his fourth opportunity to win a world title came along in the form of the WBA, held by Chudinov.
At Bramall Lane Stadium, on the undercard of Brook vs. Spence ‘The Saint’ achieved the ultimate objective. Through six rounds of what felt like all-out action, where both boxers were buzzed and hurt multiple times, Groves unleashed a brutal flurry and with no reply coming from the Russian, the referee stepped in to end the bout, an emotional George with arms held aloft in triumph, was lifted into the air by trainer, Shane McGuigan
A boxer’s rise almost seems incomplete without the fall and ultimately that’s what happened to ‘The Saint’ in his last fight in the World Boxing Super Series finale. Despite folding Jamie Cox in half in the quarter-finals with a 4th round body shot KO and outclassing Chris Eubank Jr in the semis (GG dislocated his shoulder in the later rounds), the final proved a step too far as Callum Smith consistently beat George to the punch and ultimately ground the ‘Saint’ down to a 7th round stoppage, finishing him off with a body-shot.
It was almost the perfect passing of the torch, although Groves will have wanted to keep hold of the metaphor, as well as his belt into retirement.
His fighting style had his lead hand low, and constant feinting; a boxing column about a Groves fight didn’t really count unless you mentioned how good he is behind the jab. His approach in the ring was just as synonymous as his entrance to it. When ‘Spitfire’ by The Prodigy rang out, and a hooded figure bowled towards the ring, you knew it was ‘The Saint’.
Memorable victories, famous defeats and multiple British classics. From Wembley Stadium to Las Vegas, Hammersmith to the Middle East, ‘Saint’ George Groves achieved the ultimate dream of becoming World champion, fighting the best along the way and leaves behind a boxer’s story that will live long in the memory of all hardcore and casual fans alike.