Burns, Groves on London card
Lightweight titlist Ricky Burns and super middleweight contender George Groves will both be featured on a card at the Excel Arena in London on Dec. 15, promoter Frank Warren announced on Monday.
Rafael's Boxing Blog
Get the latest scoop and analysis on the world of boxing from ESPN.com's Dan Rafael in his blog.
Neither fighter has an opponent yet, but Burns will make the third defense of his 135-pound world title in the main event while Groves will make the fourth defense of the Commonwealth title at 168 pounds.
Burns (35-2, 10 KOs), 29, of Scotland, is coming off perhaps the finest performance of his career, a fourth round knockout of England's Kevin Mitchell, one of his good pals, to retain his title on Sept. 22.
"Since the win over Mitchell the response I've had from the Scottish fans has been fantastic, but I've also had so many congratulation messages from the English fans saying what a great fight performance it was and when am I coming to England to fight again," said Burns, who is on a brief vacation in Las Vegas before returning to training camp. "I didn't realize that it would be my very next fight, so I'm happy to come down and give them a Christmas treat at the Excel."
Although the opponent is not set, Warren said it would be "against a top-10 challenger."
"The last couple of years have been fantastic with wins over Roman Martinez, (Michael) Katsidis and now Mitchell," Burns said. "I seem to be getting better and better as the challenges in my career step up each time. Dec. 15 is another crucial date for me. Once I get that out of the way I'm looking forward to some big unification fights in 2013."
The 24-year-old Groves (15-0, 12 KOs), of England, is anxious to get back in the ring after having fought just once this year because he had to withdraw from two other fights because of injuries.
A back problem forced Groves to pull out of a mandatory shot at then-super middleweight world titleholder Robert Stieglitz, which was scheduled for May 5 in Germany.
Then Groves was supposed to face Kenny Anderson in a rematch on Sept. 14, but pulled out after suffering a bad cut over his right eye in a sixth-round knockout win against Francisco Sierra on July 28, when they fought in San Jose, Calif., on the Robert Guerrero-Selcuk Aydin undercard.
"This year has been tough, but I'm over the worst of it and now I'm focused on a big performance at the Excel," Groves said. "Although I've only had one fight this year, it was a good win in America that made the fans and media sit up and take notice of me. (In) 2013, I'm sure, will be a much better one for me, but I need to make sure I end the year with my record intact."
"Ricky looked phenomenal beating Kevin Mitchell and proved why I call him the most improved fighter in the country," Warren said. "He (had) a lot of fans backing him in London when he beat Michael Katsidis and now with his win over Mitchell it will attracted even more. For Groves it's an opportunity to end the year on a positive note and look forward to a bigger 2013 and a shot at the world title."
Also scheduled to fight on the card, which will be televised on BoxNation in United Kingdom, are two of top British prospects. Billy Joe Saunders (15-0, 10 KOs), a 2008 British Olympian, will defend his Commonwealth middleweight title, and cruiserweight Tony Conquest (10-0, 4 KOs) will also appear.
"I can't wait to put on another power-packed performance at the Excel and retain my Commonwealth title," Saunders said. "This year I will have had four Commonwealth title fights and 2013 will be the year I win the Lonsdale belt. I'm in great form at the moment and I'm confident I could beat any of my rivals in the domestic division, including Martin Murray, Darren Barker or Matthew Macklin."