George Groves’ latest quest to become super-middleweight world champion began in convincing style as the 27-year-old Londoner overcame Andrea Di Luisa, 33, with an emphatic fifth round stoppage at the Copper Box Arena, London.
The fight, with no titles at stake, was comprehensively won by Groves when, two-thirds of the way into the fifth round, Di Luisa’s corner made the wise decision to throw in the towel with the Englishman dominating his opponent.
After four months out and in his first fight under new trainer Shane McGuigan, Groves started powerfully and looked sharp from the outset as he dealt heavy blows to the body and head of his opponent, who looked vulnerable and uncomfortable throughout.
Di Luisa, recognising Groves’ power, attempted to restrict the damage imposed upon him, whilst Groves adopted a counter-attacking tactic in the opening rounds.
The Italian’s nose was blooded in the opening round as Groves’ left jab proved especially effective; it was a resolute performance from the boxer hoping to bounce back from three failed world title bids.
The first big hit of the bout came early in the second round with Groves’ speedy left-right combination causing Di Luisa to stumble; the Englishman’s back-foot stance made landing any big punches difficult for the 33-year-old as ‘The Saint’ expertly dodged such attempts and then countered in brutal, uncompromising fashion.
Had Groves started attacking from the moment the pair touched gloves, the fight may well have been over within the first couple of rounds.
His Italian opponent, though, survived the third round more comfortably, with both boxers cautious to leave themselves exposed and vulnerable to the powerful left hook that they each possess.
The fourth round exploded the fight into life with a flurry of quick-fire combinations from Groves pinning Di Luisa onto the ropes before referee Ian John-Lewis gave the 33-year-old his first countdown.
Di Luisa continued to persevere but looked foolish when Groves circumvented two powerful hooks; the Italian’s momentum for the latter caused him to tumble to the canvas to the delight of Groves’ hometown crowd.
The Englishman tightened his stronghold on the bout with offensive tactics of unprecedented, continuous heavy blows to his opponent, attempting to conclude the fight rather than prolonging the inevitable for the remaining eight rounds.
In the fifth round, the contest was eventually put to bed; Groves landed several heavy punches, putting Di Luisa down onto his knee as he glanced to his corner as if to say, “throw in the towel, I’ve had enough!”
The Italian didn’t have to wait too much longer but there was still time for Groves to put his opponent on the canvas once more but John-Lewis gave Di Luisa another chance with a countdown.
With 65 seconds remaining in the fifth round, though, Di Luisa’s misery was complete as the towel was thrown in for the referee to stop the fight, with Groves winning convincingly and totally unscathed.
Afterwards, Groves’ promoter Kalle Sauerland said, “George is a big name in the division. Hopefully sooner than later we’ll be challenging for a world title again.”
“I promise I didn’t eat too many Christmas puds,” joked Groves afterwards, before reflecting, “I felt sharp and dictated the pace. I’ve never thrown body shots as well. I feel good. I feel fresh. [On his partnership with McGuigan] I’m enjoying it, I think we’re going to be a winning team! We’ll look for another big date. I’m ready.”
Despite Di Luisa’s frailties, ‘The Saint’ brushed away the first obstacle on his fourth pursuit of a world title; in the words of McGuigan, “bring on the next one!”