Groves vs Eubank Jr: Groves looks value bet
Chris Eubank Jnr will find himself in the unusual position of not being the heavy favourite for one of his fights when he challenges WBA super-middleweight champion George Groves at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, writes Declan Warrington.
Similarly unusually, despite him widely being considered, at worst, a narrow outsider in their World Boxing Super Series semi-final, there is also little logical reason to believe he will succeed.
For all of his natural ability and the fact his only professional defeat was narrow and came over three years ago against the classy Billy Joe Saunders, when comparing his abilities - his strengths and weaknesses - with those of Groves, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion he is a convincing underdog, despite being the 7/10 favourite in the Groves vs Eubank Jr betting.
If the 28-year-old - by 18 months the younger fighter - is both fresher and possesses the superior punch resistance, he is also considerably smaller, less powerful, less gifted, and lacks the variety and in-ring intelligence so often demonstrated by Groves, who can be backed at 27/20.
Those picking against the champion do so largely based on his long-term vulnerabilities, his suspect stamina and chin, and a belief that after his two high-profile stoppage defeats by Carl Froch and another on points by the highly-rated Badou Jack, he has physically declined.
Moments of discomfort during his victory over Martin Murray and Fedor Chudinov, respectively in 2016 and 2017, have contributed to that school of thought, but the reality remains that even while Groves was undefeated, that vulnerability has long been there.
In late 2012 in what was then his finest performance, Groves outclassed former world champion Glen Johnson but looked troubled on the few occasions the American had success. He similarly outboxed Murray and Froch for lengthy periods, but even when Eubank Jnr has the moments he can be expected to, it will not be with the power - particularly in the case of Froch - that those three once had.
It was telling that against Nick Blackwell, Dmitrii Chudinov and Renold Quinlan - three opponents whose styles presented Eubank Jnr with straightforward victories - none appeared particularly hurt despite him landing numerous punches and were only stopped when he had such a significant lead on points they required an unlikely stoppage to win.
His knockout of Avni Yildirim in October in the competition's quarter-finals was far more convincing, but gifted to him by the wide-open target that was the Turk's chin.
While in his points victory over Arthur Abraham before that he had produced his most polished performance to date, his fight preparations - the lack of a traditional trainer or training camp - and the fact he retains a middleweight's build cannot be overlooked.
The 29-year-old Groves, in contrast, appears the most content and composed he has ever been, comfortable in what has so far been an undefeated combination with trainer Shane McGuigan and perhaps in his prime, revelling in the confidence that comes with the status of being a world champion.
It is possible a relentless, durable, but less-talented pressure fighter could outwork him, but while Eubank Jnr's stamina is more proven, the challenger also fights in bursts and not in the consistent way that could represent his biggest threat.
Presented with Groves' jab - potentially the finest punch in British boxing - the champion's superior footwork, impressive speed, and the biggest puncher and opponent he will ever have faced, Eubank Jnr's greatest chance of succeeding will come in forcing his rival into the nature of fight against the ropes that will make him uncomfortable.
It is in attempting to do so that he will experience his greatest struggles. Amid Groves' jab and advantage in size, he will need to take risks against a powerful, proven counter-puncher, and in the process of doing so also risks allowing the champion to find his rhythm and build a lead.
That Eubank Jnr is so tough, driven and focused is what, even then, makes it difficult to completely discount him - there is a will and strength of character that may yet shape this fight's outcome.
But for all of his belief, unless Groves truly has declined or under-performs, the champion will win via a unanimous points decision or even by stopping his game challenger late on. We're going for the former at 11/2.