George Groves began attempts to secure a fourth world title shot with a comfortable fifth round stoppage of Andrea di Luisa at The Copper Box in Stratford. Groves put down Di Luisa three times before the match was stopped as the Italian's corner threw in the towel.
Though Groves was rarely tested during the bout, the performance should be enough to add credence to his bid to again challenge for a world title; with Badou Jack and James DeGale among the fighters being targeted by the Briton. Groves is ranked third in the WBC rankings and his reputation will have been done no harm by a return to winning ways.
The three-quarters full Copper Box - though a former Olympic venue from London 2012 - represented the humble surroundings for the start of the Hammersmith-born fighters' bid for a fourth world title attempt. His grand return to the United Kingdom came against a modest opponent in the form of Di Luisa - a former European Union super-middleweight champion - and was likely to represent little more than cannon-fodder for the Briton than an opportunity to send a genuine message of intent.
Di Luisa's vague hopes of causing an upset in London would rest either on capitalising on Groves' complacency or the punishment previously handed out to him by Carl Froch and Jack - whose classy win in September Groves was bidding to avenge. Having split with Adam Booth following his third world title defeat, Groves was confident that the enlisting of new trainer Shane McGuigan would help him lay down a marker to the super-middleweight division.
Groves' desire to show he had been reinvented by his new-found partnership with McGuigan were not immediately obvious in round one. While the 27-year-old did land some telling blows, he remained open to shots from Di Luisa; who was displaying the pluckiness which had seen him emerge from the suburbs of Rome.
Swift combinations from Groves allowed him to dominate rounds two and three, with his authority underlined by the blood which was now streaming from the nose of Di Luisa. But credit to the Italian he was restricting the damage imposed upon him and was not allowing himself to be pinned down on the ropes.
That dynamic would change in round four when Di Luisa touched down, albeit momentarily, amid mounting Groves pressure and the 33-year-old went down two more times in the fifth before the towel was thrown in. Victory for Groves represents a fine return to form but bigger challenges await if he is to make another bid for a world title.