Groves vs Eubank Jr: Boxer versus Bravado

Groves vs Eubank Jr: Boxer versus Bravado

The bookies have installed Chris Eubank Jr as favourite in the semi-final of their World Boxing Super Series clash, proving hype catches the attention of casual fans. The Eubanks have made two careers out of furore. Eubank Senior was no doubt one of the best during a competitive generation. A true boxer who ran out of answers when faced with hardman Steve Collins.

The three losses that closed out his career were the exclamation point highlighting his long decline. They shouldn’t overshadow his boxing prowess. His personal, and carefully crafted, style outside the ring was a distraction that often counted against him, especially as historians focus on the performer.

So it’s with some irony that his son enters his biggest bout to date and isn’t seen as the natural boxer out of the two competitors. His best chance is to make Groves deviate from the plan to box. As we saw against Billy Joe Saunders, Eubank Jr can be put in his shell when the other guy remains disciplined.

Those bookies odds have been shaped by the Eubank Jr gimmick convincing people he’s better than the man holding two belts, as much as Groves’ historical bouts, namely the Carl Froch fights, have swayed opinion.

Cliché alert: some boxers are never the same after a big defeat. Until Groves wins the next big one, there will be a question mark over him. Has the Froch experience scarred him forever? The Eubank Jr fight is the next big one. A win here deletes the years of carrying around inner turmoil.

History doesn’t tell the story of how he out-boxed Froch for two fights, or how the Nottingham fighter needed to pull out the best punch of his career to stop him. It just says he lost. Twice.

To drive home that fact, Carl Froch works tirelessly at working a reminder into every appearance he makes on Sky Sports. If you didn’t know already, Carl Froch once filled Wembley and beat George Groves.

The time to kill the bogeyman has arrived.

He’s endured the painful memory of what happens when he allows adrenaline to dictate his approach. If he remains mindful of his goal – and how to achieve – Chris Eubank Jr will be in for a long night of boxing. One where he becomes a frustrated and beaten opponent.

The fight could come alive in the second half when Eubank Jr realises the points are against him and he needs to do something to remove the judges from the equation. At that point, all eyes will be looking for the knockout win.

The wise man would still fancy Groves. If he can endure the onslaught, he can also deliver more telling power punches to a chin that has never been tested.

Groves famously once said: “Everything for a reason.” All those setbacks have been for tonight, the reason: to take back the respect he should never have lost, to make this his time. In doing so, he will expose the Eubank brand for what it really is.

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The Selective Ethics of Team GB’s Fans

The Selective Ethics of Team GB’s Fans

The excitement, euphoria and sense of patriotism which had subsided following Team GB’s success in Rio, will no doubt get a shot in the arm following today’s Olympic parade in Manchester. But enough time has passed since the final medal was placed over an athlete’s head to examine the cost of finishing second in the medal table. Not just the financial implications but the moral bill supporters must front.

The largest element of hypocrisy is the amount of funding Team GB received, yet their supporters have conveniently ignored this. The same people that bemoan the amount of cash in major sports, such as football, F1 and boxing.

When teams win the Premier League (Leicester aside) the usual implication is they bought the title. The winner of the F1 drivers’ championship is labelled as only doing so because he had the fastest car, and that comes from being at one of the richest teams. Normally every sporting achievement has a negative campaign about the finances involved.

Sometimes this is healthy. It highlights inequality surrounding the distribution of wealth within certain competitions. It makes governing bodies accountable and fights the corner of the paying public. Those at grass roots or lower tiers of sports are given a voice, helping raise cash for their survival.

But little has been made of Team Gb’s £275m funding.

Obviously it is important to invest in the future of sport, and the fruits of the cash injection have been clear for all to see during the last two Olympic games. But there is a forced ignorance taking place which means no one is questioning the level of spending or the moral implications.

The Olympics has moved away from the wholesome meet that sees raw athleticism take precedent over large commercial sport. The IOC can be thanked for this. They are the Olympics version of FIFA. Just another “non-profit” organisation that saw the marketing revenue for Rio exceed $9 billion. Television alone accounted for $4.1 billion of the IOC’s revenue.

Money is inextricably linked to top level sport. It is inescapable that if there’s a public interest, large companies will exploit the revenue potential. It would be foolish to believe the Olympics is any different than the NBA, NFL or the Premier League.

Like those global juggernauts, if you want to be successful, you need to spend big. And Team GB was bankrolled as if owned by oil made billionaires. Except the funding came from the tax payer and Lottery money. Most won’t complain about cash being siphoned away for sport but most won’t have examined where it’s gone.

£5.7m for a badminton bronze sounds excessive. If that doesn’t bother you, perhaps £6.9m for the modern pentathlon and its zero medal haul will have you pondering the cost of blind investment. Rowing did bring three gold medals but at a cost of £32m.

Of course, investment always enables better infrastructure but the sense Team GB bought their second place on the medal table permeates the mood when talking to rival nations. That could be sour grapes, but only the sort of comment people here make when discussing other sports. Sports that are self-sustaining and viewed consistently by millions. Despite the £14m investment, how many people will actually watch a gymnastics meet before the next Olympics?

This isn’t sporting legacy, it’s a fleeting fascination that comes around every four years. It was an expensive hit for a short high.

The moral high ground has many spots. As well as bemoaning the money in other sports, people are also quick to pass judgement on other nations when there’s a suspicion of wrong doing. The world revelled and condemned all Russian athletes when evidence of state-sponsored doping came to light.

Without a thorough investigation it was deemed appropriate to label all their athletes guilty until proven innocent. The calls for transparency were loud and clear.

Those calls have become barely audible whispers since Sir Bradley Wiggins’s use of TUEs has been leaked by Russian based hackers. There’s no suggestion he has done anything illegal, but how many people are genuinely comfortable with the notion the rules can be – and have been – bent to enhance the chances of success?

Those involved in the Russian witch-hunt should now be working tirelessly to clear the murky waters surrounding TUEs.

But the games come around every four years and as long as Team GB is successful the hunger to question the processes in place, whether it be funding or medical exemptions, will be virtually non-existent.

Formula One for All

Formula One for All

It’s a long held dream that sport can unite everyone on the planet. The FIFA World Cup breaks down barriers faster than men sitting at a negotiating table. The Olympics brings all the nations together with flag parades. Casual observers then become hooked on sports they usually have zero interest in. Unity makes these lesser reported events suddenly important.

And we have F1. A powerful advert for a connected world. The pinnacle of motorsport that travels the globe. A sport for everyone . . . everyone that fits into Bernie Ecclestone’s world view, that is.

The problem with universal sports is they will eventually cross party lines and some will attempt to use them as a tool for their own gain. It is at times like this sport should first be protected, then take a subtle step back. It is a permanent position that can’t be altered when it suits decision makers within that sport. When they voluntarily alter these rules they become as bad as the exterior forces trying to gain leverage by foul means.

In 2012 F1 came under severe scrutiny over the Bahrain Grand Prix. The previous year had seen it cancelled twice due to civil unrest and when it was announced the following season human rights activists called for it to be removed once again. It wasn’t. Bernie Ecclestone said at the time: “I don’t think sport should be involved in politics. When any sport goes into a country, they respect the laws of the country whatever they are.”

On the face of it this is a valid stance to take. Sport should only be used for good, not to thrust ideals on emerging nations. However, human rights should be free from political boundaries and ignoring them to facilitate a multi-million-dollar sport does feel inappropriate. F1 should take note how FIFA have struggled on this front (Qatar! What about Brazil?)

Bernie’s problem with Bahrain was quickly overlooked. This would have been fine if the man in charge of Formula One Management stuck to his own mandate. But Bernie’s biggest problem is his mouth and the ignorant brain it is connected to.

For a man that believes politics have no place in sport, it seems strange he thinks it is fine to make this comment about Vladimir Putin: “He’s the guy who should run Europe.” He added that he didn’t like democracy because not much got done.

The problem he has here isn’t with democracy, but the fact the teams are trying their best to prevent him continuing his reign as sport’s dictator. There’s no suggestion they want to oust him but they are standing firmer on new agreements. Jenson Button recently put the idea forward that Ross Brawn would be a great rule maker for the sport.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Red Bull boss Christian Horner and undoubtedly countless others would join the cause if Brawn showed an interest. Of course, a rule maker superseding the FIA’s view wouldn’t stop Bernie’s commercial arm entirely but it would make him slightly (more) impotent.

So the hypocrisy of Ecclestone’s claims that sport should be free from politics is multifaceted. On one hand we are told politics have no place while he parades with foreign leaders, claiming they should be ruling continents and the current political system in place in those opposing areas is fundamentally flawed.

Within the sport there is no such thing as negotiation or compromise. It is about how much power he can exert on the teams making him richer by the second. Sport is used as a symbol to join people together, to transcend class and gender. Yet he sees the rich and the poor on his own grid.

He makes outlandish comments that women are unable to compete with men. He says men will not take them seriously. This is only true if the men in question are chauvinistic or only interested in self-gain, things Ecclestone can relate to. He claims they are not physically able to drive a Formula One car.

In doing so he completely ignores the achievements of Susie Wolff, how she proved modern F1 cars are fine in the hands of a female. He is ignorant of women in American motorsport. Pippa Mann has completed four Indy 500s. Most famous of all is Danica Patrick. She has 115 Indy Car races to her name and is currently in NASCAR.

To say all women are incapable based on perceived body strength and stamina is ludicrous. There are women out there that easily exceed their male counterparts. It’s a sexist view that should have been buried decades ago.

It continues to be given life when ignorant little men with lots of money hold positions of power for too long.
Formula One is for everyone, like all good sport should be.

Bernie Ecclestone continues to prove he is out of touch with the world, the time we live in, and the sport he represents.