A work in progress

For the best part of two decades, Britain has boasted at least one world champion at super-middleweight.

After Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Robin Reid and Joe Calzaghe came Carl Froch, whose second spell as a title holder ended when he was soundly beaten by classy American Andre Ward at the weekend.

Froch may now move to light-heavyweight, leaving bitter west London rivals James DeGale and George Groves as the country’s next great hopes in the 12-stone division.

Despite losing the British title and his unbeaten professional record to Groves, DeGale – now European champion – is determined to step up to world level in 2012.

“George has got a lot to learn, but as long as he’s winning while he’s learning then I’m happy.”

Groves, two years younger at 23 and with a more long-term – some might say realistic –  outlook, is taking his time and his trainer Adam Booth isn’t slow to point out why.

“It frightens me how little he knows and how much he’s got to do,” Booth told West London Sport.

“I’ve got no problem stating what his weaknesses are at the moment. I’m telling everyone that if you fight George, look for him with the right hand because you find him.

“I guarantee that if you do find him you won’t hurt him, but it might help me do my job because I’m telling him things and working in training and then he gets caught by Paul Smith with the right hand in the first round.”

That thunderous right Smith landed on Groves in their fight at Wembley Arena in November underlined that the Hammersmith prospect remains easy to hit.

He can also be devastating with his own punches – as Smith discovered when he was stopped in the following round after Groves floored him twice.

But while DeGale talks up his own prospects of a world title shot – possibly against WBO champion Mikkel Kessler – Groves is set to continue defending his British and Commonwealth belts for the time being.

Groves is the unbeaten British and Commonwealth champion.

Booth is keen for him to fight opponents with a variety of styles before moving up to elite level.

“George has got a lot to learn, but as long as he’s winning while he’s learning then I’m happy,” Booth says.

“I’ve no doubt he’ll get there, but go into a fight against someone like Ward or Froch at this stage? No.

“When you go into a fight, you’re going to do a job. And when you go to do a job, you’ve got to have every tool in the box. You need the tool for every single possible job you’ll face.

“At the moment, there are so many tools we still need George to get. It’s about him having all the styles that he’ll need to do what he’ll need to do.

“The super-middleweight division is really strong. Look at Froch, Ward and Kessler. Look at Andre Dirrell and [IBF champion] Lucian Bute – all great fighters.

“You don’t rush into fights like that until you know that you’ve been to see every job and know you’ve got the tools to do what you need to do.

“George is still young – he’s only had 14 fights. But I guarantee you this: when he gets there, they’ll be the ones who have things to worry about.”

Related feature: I’m not world class – yet

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