Tonight at the Excel Arena in London, George Groves puts his Commonwealth super middleweight title on the line against ageing gatekeeper Glen Johnson. Johnson retired after his last fight back in July which he lost by way of unanimous decision against Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago. The lure of another big payday has brought the legendary Jamaican back to the ring.
Johnson has a reputation, and a big one at that, for giving fighters of any level the fight of their lives, and I see no reason why tonight will be any different. It is true that at the age of 43 and having been close to retirement for many years, with actual retirement coming back in July, that Johnson is most certainly no longer in his prime. But it must also be pointed out that during the 3 years he has been in his forties, he has given Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, and Carl Froch as much as they could handle.
It must also not be forgotten that Johnson has only lost once inside the distance and that was in his very first loss, all the way back in 1997, and at middleweight, against Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. His other 16 losses have been by decision and I would estimate that almost all of them were very close or even controversial.
What we know for sure is Glen Johnson is coming to fight, coming to win and most certainly won’t lay down for Groves.
Groves is an upcoming hot prospect at the weight that at the age of 24 already has signature wins over big national rivals James DeGale and Kenny Anderson, Mexican contender Francisco Sierra, and the resilient Ghanaian Charles Adamu and has already held British and Commonwealth titles.
A win for Groves will further add to his resume at the weight and steer him in the right direction for a world title shot in the next 18 months. But he won’t be given the win easily, that is for certain.
Groves was the first person to stop Charles Adamu and could fancy his chances at becoming the first person to stop Johnson. But, Johnson has one of the toughest chins in the history of boxing as he has shown time and again.
VERDICT: I think Johnson will give Groves arguably his toughest fight to date but I expect Groves to pass this big test by winning a unanimous decision. A stoppage is unlikely in my opinion.
On the undercard, Billy Joe Saunders fights Nick Blackwell for the vacant British middleweight title. Saunders’ Commonwealth title will also be on the line.
Saunders entered the professional ranks around the same time as the other big name Olympians from 2008 did, but did so with the least attention on him. Despite this, he has really started to show himself to be a good prospect.
Of his 15 wins to date, 10 of them have been by stoppage, and all of them have come inside the first 2 rounds. He has shown he isn’t a one trick pony though, as he has also beaten some good domestic level foes over the distance; foes such as former Commonwealth champion Bradley Saunders and domestic contender Gary Boulden.
Nick Blackwell has a few good wins and has held the English title, and I expect him to put up a fight. But if Saunders is in the mood I think this fight could end early. I think Blackwell will survive the early rounds, despite Saunders’ obvious power, but I’m not sure he will make it to the end.
VERDICT: Blackwell makes it out of the first 2 rounds but I expect Saunders to end it soon after that; perhaps between rounds 4 and 6.
In Germany, Michael Sprott rematches Edmund Gerber. They fought back in September in a controversial fight which ended with the referee declaring Sprott had had enough in round 4, despite Sprott and viewers certainly disagreeing. This resulted in Sprott pushing the referee to the canvas.
Michael Sprott has all the experience in the world, having fought 55 times, many of which were against some of the world’s best at heavyweight. In his 16 years as a pro he has shared the ring with the likes of Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Dimitrenko, Ruslan Chagaev, Alexander Ustinov, Lamon Brewster, Alexander Ustinov, Matt Skelton, Danny Williams and Audley Harrison.
He is a resilient fighter, with a fairly tough chin, and has always given his all in the ring. Even at this late stage of his career at the age of 37, he’s still taking top European fighters like Kubrat Pulev and Alexander Dimitrenko, to the late rounds - he went 9 rounds with Pulev and 12 rounds with Dimitrenko.
Gerber is a prospect in age alone. At the age of 24 people are entitled to think he may become a contender at heavyweight. However, with no malice intended, I really don’t think that will happen. Gerber has shown very few signs that he might actually become quite good.
He has gone the distance with fighters like Darnell Wilson, Maurice Harris and Samir Kurtagic who are all in their late 30s and have developed into journeymen over the years. You would expect a top contender to be defeating opponents like this fairly early on. I don’t believe a fighter like David Price would have too much trouble doing that.
The fight is only over 10 rounds, so the championship rounds have been cut out which could be a saviour to Sprott and his 37 years.
VERDICT: I originally thought I would predict Gerber to win by stoppage in the middle rounds, perhaps round 6. But the more I look at Gerber’s limited ability the more I think it could go the distance. What the heck: Gerber wins on points.
Finally, the most high profile fight of the night is in California, as Amir Khan returns to the ring for the first time since his 4th round stoppage loss to Danny Garcia back in July.
Khan is coming off of 2 big losses on the trot, albeit one was very controversial. So he will want to bounce back with a big victory tonight. He has the perfect opponent in order to get such a win too: Little known Carlos Molina.
Molina is coming up from lightweight to accept what is clearly his biggest fight to date and will be giving away height, reach and natural weight advantages. The fight is obviously a confidence boosting fight for Khan as he tries to get back to winning ways.
I don’t know much about Molina so the only thing I can say is that he might have a puncher’s chance, which you would think quite a few fighters would have against Amir Khan. But, aside from a lucky punch, I can’t see Molina being able to trouble Khan.
Khan will also be fighting his first fight with Virgil Hunter in charge of him so it will interesting to see what changes they have made to Khan’s overall gameplan.
I expect that gameplan to be rather simple: Stick to the basics, keep the jab going strong early on, move smartly any time Molina tries to land while close, throw flurries when the opportunity arises, and finally go for a knockout when the time is right. I think Khan will do what is needed and expect nothing less than a knockout.
VERDICT: Khan wins by knockout or stoppage by the middle rounds. I have gone with round 7 myself.