No KO but Groves shows class as he overcomes veteran Johnson to defend title
02:30 GMT, 16 December 2012
George Groves came through the toughest test of his career to retain his Commonwealth super-middleweight title with a unanimous points win over veteran Glen Johnson.
Groves, 24, was stepping up to world class level for the first time as a professional and showed his class from the opening bell.
Florida-based Jamaican Johnson, 43, displayed his renowned toughness but was comprehensively beaten on the scorecards by margins of 120-107 twice and 119-109.
Champion: George Groves celebrates his victory over Glen Johnson with David Haye (left)
Groves has endured a frustrating year, fighting just once before tonight due to a succession of injuries.
The Londoner twice saw a rematch with Scot Kenny Anderson cancelled while a world title challenge against then WBO champion Robert Stieglitz was also called off.
Groves' inactivity saw him stripped of his British belt which was belatedly won by Anderson when he stopped Robin Reid in October.
His only previous fight this year was a sixth-round stoppage of Francisco Sierra in California in July but a cut suffered in the third session kept him out of action until tonight.
Johnson on the other hand announced his retirement after losing a unanimous 10-round decision to Andrzej Fonfara in July, only to reverse his decision and travel to England for the fifth time in his 71-fight career.
A former world champion at light heavyweight, Johnson is best known on these shores for his trilogy with Clinton Woods but more recently he showed his stubborn resistance against Carl Froch and Lucian Bute in unsuccessfully challenging for their respective world titles.
After winning his first 32 contests as
a professional, Johnson was beaten for the first time, and stopped for
the only time, by Bernard Hopkins in 1997.
Resilient: Johnson (left) withstood the pressure and lost on a points decision
The defeat took its toll as Johnson lost eight of his subsequent 14 bouts before winning the IBF title from Woods.
Sensational wins over Roy Jones Jnr and Antonio Tarver followed although the latter would go on to exact revenge six months later.
Since then, Johnson has been unable to win another world title but along with his battles with Froch and Bute, he has also pushed Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud to the final bell.
And despite losing for the 18th time, he did the same to Groves.
After a tentative opening to the first round, Groves rocked Johnson with a powerful right hand and the visitor spent the remainder of the round tucked up on the ropes as the champion launched assault after assault.
Groves had said in the build-up that he intended to make a statement by stopping Johnson and he drew his adversary into a war in the second session.
But any suggestion that the challenger
would slink off quietly into the night were quickly rubbished as he
began to turn the tide with some punishing body shots.
was more of the same in the third round but Groves gradually began to
pick his punches more effectively thanks to his superior footwork. He
did so again in the next session and looked to have Johnson in trouble
with a right hook downstairs.
Punishing: Johnson scored some body shots which were tricky for Groves to deal with
The frenetic pace relented in the fifth stanza, although caution was again thrown to the wind in the final thirty seconds as the pair planted their feet and traded.
It was Johnson who served up a reminder of his power as the fight reached the halfway point, momentarily stopping Groves in his tracks.
But the favourite responded brilliantly, rocking the veteran with a left to the body and a right to the head before laying siege until the bell sounded.
Groves sensed blood at the start of
the seventh but Johnson never stopped coming forward, removing any
lingering doubt over his motivation for extending his long career.
eight and nine were tight affairs but Groves landed the more eye
catching blows as his right hand induced a slight swelling under his
opponent's left eye.
fight entered the final quarter, the inevitability of it going the
distance grew. Groves was ahead by an unassailable margin and knowing
Johnson needed a knockout to win, he worked efficiently in the
penultimate round, refusing to be drawn in as he had been earlier.
Onwards and upwards: Groves expects to be back in action in February in London
But it was Groves who finished with a flourish, rocking Johnson with a left hook before a right hand sent him to the canvas after a sustained barrage on the ropes.
Johnson was up quickly and the bell sounded immediately after the restart.
Groves, who will be back in action in London in February, admitted he had thrown everything at the durable Johnson in what was his finest performance to date.
'I'm delighted with that performance. Glen Johnson is without doubt the toughest opponent I've faced,' he said.
'I've never hit someone so hard, so often and so clean yet seen them keep coming. I learnt a lot from that fight.
'I made a few mistakes but I believe I showed composure and class to correct them and change the fight.
'I shot my bolt a few times and emptied the tank. I landed flush shots and it looked like he was completely gone, but he survived.
'The bell saved him on one or two occasions. It was about recovering and picking my openings.'