British middleweight champion Nick ‘Bang Bang’ Blackwell has paid tribute to the skills of former British, Commonwealth and European super-middleweight champion ‘Saint’ George Groves following a number of sparring sessions in his company and says he’s now more confident than ever of defeating his next opponent, Chris Eubank Jr., on March 26.
Blackwell and Eubank Jr. collide at the SSE Arena, Wembley this weekend, live on Channel 5, and the champion from Trowbridge has been using time spent in the ring with Groves to sharpen his tools and get him well-prepared for the task at hand.
“It has been really good,” said Blackwell. “George is big, strong, very fast and he hits hard. He’s also a really nice lad. I appreciate him letting me go to his gym and spar.
“I learnt a lot from George and got some decent rounds in. I didn’t feel 110% in all of the spars we had, but it was nice to know that George still had some nice things to say about me.
“I’ve had good sparring at my gym but sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and get in with people who are world-class and have competed at a higher level. George Groves is world-class. He has boxed world-class fighters and he has been in some massive events. He has been there and done it. Eubank Jr. hasn’t. He might like to pretend he has, but he really hasn’t.”
Though the respective styles of Groves and Eubank Jr. are anything but similar, Blackwell is nevertheless encouraged by the work he was able to produce while in the ring with a former world title challenger.
“Mentally, it’s great,” he said. “You feel good going into a fight like this knowing you’ve sparred countless rounds with a world-class guy from a weight class above.
“George’s jab is phenomenal. It’s probably the best jab I’ve ever come across. When you take one of his jabs, it’s like being hit by a right hand. It’s very sharp and he’s very strong.
“Eubank Jr. doesn’t really use a jab that much, and he’s certainly not going to hit as hard as Groves. I’m in a great place. I’m ready.”
Groves, it seems, is also a believer. Last week he said, “I’ve always been impressed by Blackwell when watching him fight. He’s a fighter who doesn’t seem afraid of anything; a lot of fighters say they’ll fight anyone, but he really means it. He loves a challenge.
“He boxed on one of my undercards against Billy Joe Saunders, pushed him really close, and I’ve kept an eye on him ever since. But it was nice to finally do some sparring with him because I’d heard a lot about his sparring sessions over the years – he’s got quite the reputation.
“Obviously he’s a fit lad with a great work-rate. He throws loads of punches. And, over the course of three sparring sessions, he showed he was a very good fighter. He punches well inside, he finds angles that don’t seem to be there, and he is happy to put it on you from the word ‘go’. He’s a real physical presence in the ring.”
*** Tickets for the British middleweight title blockbuster between Nick ‘Bang Bang’ Blackwell and Chris Eubank Jr. are priced at £35, £50, £75, £175, £200 and £250 for ringside and can be purchased online at ssearena.co.uk and axs.com or by phoning the SSE Arena, Wembley Box Office on 0844 815 0815 ***