‘Ugly kid’ looks the part

I wondered what James DeGale made of it all.

Here was his arch rival – the man he refers to as “ugly kid” and more – destroying in two rounds someone the Harlesden man outclassed in nine, and producing the kind of display that summed up why George Groves is popular as well as highly rated.

Not that DeGale was anything less than superb when he met Paul Smith almost a year ago.

He could argue too, with some justification, that he effectively softened up the Liverpudlian for Groves, as his dismantling of Smith possibly took a lot out of him.

But where DeGale was classy, Groves was simply ruthless.

Groves defended his titles in style

Groves was also much more impressive in his first outing since beating DeGale than his fellow West Londoner was in his own return to the ring last month.

DeGale had to battle in order to take the European title from tough Pole Piotr Wilczewski, whereas Groves had no such problems in front of his home crowd.

Former Downing Street media enforcer Alastair Campbell was among those at ringside at Wembley Arena. Even he would have struggled to put a positive spin on the night’s events from DeGale’s perspective.

One positive is that Groves’ win keeps him on course for another showdown with DeGale and interest in a rematch high.

But Groves was reluctant to offer even that crumb of comfort to DeGale after seeing off Smith.

Instead, he took the opportunity to mock the man he beat as an amateur and then took the British title from with a points victory in May.

Asked about the prospect of trying to add DeGale’s European belt to his British and Commonwealth super-middleweight titles, Groves quipped: “I’ve already beaten the European champion. I can’t keep bashing poor James DeGale and taking the titles he’s winning.

The Hammersmith fighter is unbeaten in 14 pro bouts

“I’ll let him concentrate on improving. In his last fight I didn’t see too much improvement, whereas I think you saw a different side to me and have seen an improvement in me.

“My career definitely doesn’t revolve around James DeGale. It’s just about finding the fights that are going to improve me as a fighter. I already know to beat a fiddly southpaw.”

That view is echoed by Groves’ trainer and manager Adam Booth, whose facial expressions at the mere mention of DeGale’s name tell their own story.

Saturday’s fight was Groves’ first since signing up with promoter Frank Warren, who also handles DeGale.

But Booth still calls the shots and is keen to take his fighter in a different direction.

“I want him to improve as a fighter,” Booth explained.

“DeGale has a really specific style. He is used to being that awkward southpaw and he’s won an Olympic gold medal doing it, so he’s effective at it.

“If they keep winning, it [a rematch] becomes a no-brainer – a huge fight. But I want George to be the fighter I think he can be. That means fighting people with different styles.

“The first time around was probably a bit too soon for both of them. It just so happened that they were so exciting together it was a natural fight to be made.

“But how many times is George going to box someone like that in his pro career? If he has maybe 35 fights in his career, two or maybe three of them will be against people who fight like James DeGale.

“He’s got to move on and progress as a fighter, and be the fighter that I want him to be and that he deserves to be.

“It’s back to the gym and working on the things we’ve been working on, because George made mistakes in that first round [against Smith].

“When two people are punching at the same time, you can’t be the one that’s higher up with your head, but that’s what happened.

“He’s got a good chin but he doesn’t need to be there taking shots like that. We’ve got to work on things like that. I’m not interested in James DeGale.”

DeGale and Warren are keen for Groves to accept a rematch

Booth will reiterate that when he and Warren discuss the next move for Groves, who could be back in action very soon having had such a quick night against Smith.

He may have formed a business relationship with Booth and Groves, but Warren has made it clear his loyalty lies with DeGale and he would be “in his corner” were a rematch to take place.

Warren wants that rematch to happen as soon as possible but accepts it may have to be put on the back burner.

“Myself, George and Adam are going to sit down and talk about it,” said Warren.

“Obviously as a promoter, the fight I’d like to see is the one with three titles on the line. But that’s going to be their decision at the end of the day. If it’s not to be that one then we’ll move on and do something else.

“Whatever does happen, he’s going to be busy and as the promoter I’m going to make sure George gets the right fights at the right time.”