HE may be gearing up for the biggest fight of his career but that didn’t stop boxer George Groves from meeting his South Tyneside fans.
The 25-year-old Londoner is the talk of the boxing world following his controversial world title bout with Carl Froch in November.
The pair have announced a re-match for Froch’s WBA and IBF super-middle weight titles on May 31, and organisers of a sportsman’s dinner at Hedworth Hall, South Shields, thought that might throw the event into doubt.
But the former amateur champion and former Commonwealth and British titleholder, honoured the commitment – despite being only months away from taking to the ring at either the Emirates Stadium or Wembley Stadium for what has become the biggest domestic boxing occasion for decades.
The night, sponsored by Richmond Taxis, was the first and only sporting dinner to be hosted by the boxer ahead of his re-match. Subsequent events have been cancelled to concentrate on his training.
The night started with a run-down of Groves’s sporting achievements before the floor was opened to questions.
Fans were keen to find out who Groves, who was accompanied by his trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick, would like to fight, as well as his views on comments by Froch describing him as a petulant child.
He told fans he “didn’t care less” about Froch’s opinions and he would be happy to fight anyone.
He told the crowd he had been “genuinely upset” at being “robbed” of the last fight after the referee Howard Foster controversially stopped it in the ninth round.
When quizzed on what his training regime will involve as he prepares to face Froch, he answered “running, punching and sparring”.
He told the audience he felt Froch had not “taken him seriously” in the last fight and “the first time in the match that he had any real chance was in the ninth round.”
Groves admitted in that round he had taken quite a few punches, but added: “I also made him miss.”
Groves said he would like to come back to South Tyneside after the match. He said: “It has been a really lovely night. To come so far away from home and receive such a warm welcome is amazing.
“It’s just great to be able to meet people interested in boxing and who are genuine fans.”
Hedworth Hall manager, Gavin Yannetta said: “When we booked Groves, the re-match was something that was being discussed and, when it was announced and we realised how close it was to the night, we thought he might pull out to concentrate on his training.
“But he didn’t and it was a fantastic night – with fans being given the opportunity to not only ask questions of Groves himself but also his trainer, and to have pictures taken and autographs signed.
“He was a genuine person and, on behalf of the Hedworth Hall, we wish him all the best in his forthcoming fight.”