George Groves returns to the United Kingdom for a super-middleweight clash against former European champion Andrea Di Luisa on Saturday 30 January.
Where to watch
Groves vs Di Luisa is available to watch live on Sky Sports 1 HD, with the main undercard fights from the Copper Box Arena set to get under way at 19.30 GMT. The main event is predicted to start approximately two-and-a-half hours later, although obviously that is subject to change. The earliest preliminary fights on a busy Matchroom schedule begin at 16.00 GMT.
Four months on from his latest unsuccessful attempt at becoming a world champion on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather's swansong against Andre Berto, Groves is back on home soil for a tune-up bout that will represent his first outing since leaving former trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick after admitting that the men's styles just did not gel. That painful split decision defeat to WBC title-holder Badou Jack in Las Vegas last year eventually led to the 27-year-old joining forces with the highly-rated Shane McGuigan, son of former featherweight favourite Barry who already works with the likes of Carl Frampton and David Haye.
Generally admired for his tenacity and resilience, Groves was knocked down in the first round against Jack but fought back impressively to make things interesting. It was the third time that 'The Saint' has walked away empty-handed from a championship bout, with a pair of losses to Carl Froch – the first of which was hugely controversial – costing him the chance to snatch the WBA and IBF super-middleweight straps.
Despite that latest disappointment, early retirement was seemingly not an option for the former British and Commonwealth champion and he returns to the ring hoping to make a mockery of journeyman Di Luisa's assertions that he is no longer the same calibre of fighter that gave both Froch and Jack a real test of their credentials. With the domestic middleweight scene in rude health, a few solid wins could potentially put Groves in a good position to renew his heated rivalry with IBF champion James DeGale.
What they've said (via Sky Sports)
George Groves: "Usually, there's a bit of stress in the build-up to a weigh-in but it's come along quickly. My team with Shane McGuigan have got it down to a T. He looks like a nice friendly chap to be honest. It's nice to have a fight that is going to be a fight but not until we step through the ropes. There's no need for it this time round. We're going to conserve some energy now and save it all for tomorrow night.
"Hopefully they [the fans] will see improvements. I've only been working with Shane for a couple of months but we're on the comeback trail. I think they'll see a explosive performance. Nice and sharp and hitting hard. That's what I've been doing in the gym. I don't think 'it' has ever left me but it's just different styles for different fights. Shane is encouraging me to punch hard and fast and that suits me. I'm going to set him up, make him make mistakes and then I'm going to jump on him."
Andrea Di Luisa: "I don't believe George is the same fighter as he was before those fights against Froch and Jack. I can only comment from my point of view. We will see how it goes, and I do have a good punch. He's a good fighter and a hard puncher but I'm ready for anything. I'm here to win.
"Training has gone as well as it should go. I'm ready for this big challenge. I've been training for almost four months but included in that was a fight in December. George is a good boxer, a good fighter. He's had a few chances to be a world champion but hasn't succeeded.
"It's not a sport that is well followed, unlike in England or America. In Italy, football is everything. If you're a footballer, great, other sports don't matter. I am looking forward to fighting in London, it's the capital of boxing in Europe. The people there are going to see that Di Luisa is strong. There's no problem for me fighting outside of Italy. Even with the public against me. For sure everyone in the arena will be cheering for Groves but I don't mind."
Groves: 24 fights, 21 wins (16 via knockout)
- (L) Badou Jack - split decision - September 2015
- (W) Denis Douglin - technical knockout - November 2014
- (W) Christopher Rebrasse - unanimous decision - September 2014
Di Luisa: 21 fights, 18 wins (14 via knockout)
- (W) Gabor Zsalek - knockout - December 2015
- (L) Lucian Bute - technical knockout - August 2015
- (W) Roberto Cocco - technical knockout - May 2013
As the odds clearly demonstrate, Groves goes into this bout as overwhelming favourite and should have no trouble in securing the 22nd victory of his professional career. If he fails to do that, then it becomes immensely difficult to see him ever working his way back up to world level.
Odds (via William Hill)
George Groves win: 1/100
Andrea Di Luisa win: 16/1
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