George Groves feels he firmly belongs amongst the elite in the super-middleweight division after producing a stunning display to earn a unanimous decision against 71-fight veteran Glen Johnson at the Excel Arena London on Saturday night.
The 24-year-old is now targeting a world title opportunity in 2013 after missing out on a shot at the WBO crown against Robert Steiglitz earlier this year.
"That performance will tell the rest of the division that I'm here, that I'm a contender and someone not just to keep an eye on, but to fear," said Groves. "II will give anyone in the world a decent fight and would beat a lot of the top guys. I believe that I'm now a world-class fighter."
Groves knew that this was an opportunity to make a statement and he duly delivered as he demonstrated his power in the very first round by pressing Johnson and looking for an early knockout.
The Jamaican had seen it all before and merely covered up against the ropes as the Londoner unloaded with some huge right hands. Having been read the riot act in the corner by trainer Adam Booth, Groves changed his tact and stuck to his boxing as he worked behind the jab and picked his moments to attack.
Johnson was unable to make an impact as he looked to rely on his thunderous right hand, but Groves' movement meant he took very little punishment and the script for the rest of the fight was written.
Groves picked his opportunities to attack and in the sixth he appeared close to forcing a stoppage as he caught Johnson with two powerful right crosses which momentarily stunned the 43-year-old. As he continued to unload on the chin of Johnson the bell sounded and survival became the key.
As the rounds progressed Johnson threw less and less as Groves listened to Booth and took a rest when needed by simply using his feet and staying out of range. With a wide points decision looking the most likely result, Johnson finally touched down when he was caught off balance by another powerful right in the 12th.
However, Johnson got back to his feet and maintained his record of only ever being stopped once by Bernard Hopkins some fifteen years ago.
After the fight Groves spoke of the toughness of Johnson as he couldn't believe some of the shots that the legendary super-middleweight had absorbed saying it was like "punching a brick wall all night".
Before the fight much of the talk had been about a possible all English showdown against current IBF champion Carl Froch, who also went 12 rounds with Johnson last year, and Groves' promoter Frank Warren believes that fight could happen next year.
"I expect to have George in a world title fight in 2013," said Warren, though he did not specify which title Groves would be chasing.
While Groves demonstrated his credentials at the Excel, it was another excellent night for some exciting prospects as former Beijing Olympian Billy Joe Saunders captured the British middleweight title with a hard fought victory over Nick Blackwell.
The fighter from Hatfield won a unanimous decision and will also look to step up in class over the next year as he called out fellow middleweights Chris Eubank Jr and John Ryder.
Elsewhere on the undercard there were wins for Liam Smith, who produced a tough display against Steve O'Meara to win the Commonwealth light middleweight title with a unanimous decision; Frank Buglioni, Bradley Skeete and Neil Dawson who knockout out Tony Conquest in the first round.