GEORGE GROVES is now the veteran. He has fought finest fighters of his era; Carl Froch, Badou Jack, James DeGale. He has a super-middleweight world title. This week, on Friday (September 28), he will not only put his WBA belt on the line against Callum Smith, he will attempt to become the first super-middleweight to win the World Boxing Super Series and the Muhammad Ali trophy.

Comparing Smith to all those he’s fought before, Groves said, “I don’t know where he ranks, I hope he is harder than [Chris] Eubank [Junior] but he will be totally different. I think he is dangerous early. I think he looks easy to hit but as soon as you let your hands go, he clips you.”

He continued, “I know I am fit and can hold my form but I haven’t seen Callum Smith do that even though he goes 12 rounds. I think if it goes long he will have doubts about fitness and concentration and if he switches off I will take advantage.”

Having to recuperate from a dislocated shoulder has been a further test of Groves’ determination. “This is just another fight but there is a lot at stake, I don’t want anyone else to win this trophy. I am back to feeling like an athlete after my shoulder was so sore. I always thought it might work again but it really did recover and feel good and then I feel like a nasty person again and I want to have a fight,” he said.

“It’s been a dogged time rehabbing, the hardest thing I have had to do, it has been agony, seeing the chiropractor, the osteopath, the surgeon, the rehab afterwards was not easy. Looking in the mirror and seeing your shoulder is one fifth of the size it was going into the fight.  I have not done all of this to go through the motions, I will be just as good as I was before, if not better. I feel that is what I will be.”

He has had to dig deeper than ever before. “Physically it was harder than defeats, emotionally they don’t compare, it was physically the hardest thing. I did walk a tightrope of thinking, ‘Can I be bothered?’” Groves said. “Then you snap out of it. ‘Don’t be so ignorant, you have a gift, why turn your back on the tournament?’

“Then the next day you think, ‘F*** the tournament, I am not getting beat just because I’m injured.’

“I could not look at Joe Gallagher [Smith’s trainer] and say I lost because of the shoulder. I wouldn’t even want to listen to myself using that excuse so who else would?

“I want to go out and finish the job.”

George Groves

For Groves retirement is far from his mind. “All I get asked now is ‘when will you retire?'” he said. “I think f*** knows, it’s working, I’ll carry on until the other shoulder goes or being away from my family is too much.

“I am doing well, it is working, when the opportunities dry up maybe but I am in the form of my life and I am enjoying myself.”