Saint George of Stamford Bridge

Former world champion George Groves has announced his retirement from boxing, meaning you shouldn’t be surprised to see the big Chelsea fan using some of his extra free time to get along to Stamford Bridge to watch the Blues.

Groves claimed the WBA world super-middleweight title by defeating Russian Fedor Chudinov in May 2017 and held on to it until his most recent bout last September.

After losing that 32nd and final fight to Callum Smith in the World Boxing Super Series final, the 30-year-old has decided to call time on his eventful and successful 11-year career as a professional boxer.

However, while he may no longer be competing in the ring, there is sure to still be plenty of sporting excitement in his life, having passionately supported the Blues since childhood, as he told the official Chelsea magazine in the build-up to the that last bout.

‘I went to Peterborough School in Fulham, not a million miles from Stamford Bridge, and the vast majority of my friends there were Chelsea fans,’ he explained. ‘One mate in particular was a massive Chelsea fan and I think I just followed his lead! So I was a Chelsea fan from an early age.’

‘It was between Chelsea and Fulham at that school. It was good having so many fellow Chelsea fans in my class, we heavily outnumbered the Fulham fans. There weren’t many of them, just the ones whose dads were Fulham fans or they just wanted to be different!’

While his grandfather instilled a respect for Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola in a young Groves during those childhood years, it was later, when he started to attend matches at the Bridge regularly, his passion really took off as he cheered on his own heroes.

‘When I started being able to go to the football a bit more regularly, I used to go with my uncles and my cousins and a few others. I hadn’t seen as much of Zola because I was a kid, but at the time I became a regular Frank Lampard and Joe Cole were my favourites.

‘Lampard was just sensational, he was a brilliant player. To score that many goals from midfield year after year after year, he was so consistent. He’s a great guy too, I’ve met him a few times since those days. That was nice, he was definitely a hero of mine.’

Groves’ own success and resulting fame has seen him rubbing shoulders with some of his Chelsea heroes on several occasions, with some Blues stars even in the crowd for a number of his fights, and he admits it can be a bit surreal.

‘I was sitting at a table at an event with John Terry just before he left Chelsea and it was funny,’ added Groves. ‘He wanted to talk to me about boxing and I wanted to talk to him about football, but neither of us really wanted to talk about our own sports on our night off, so we were sat there trying to find a neutral topic for conversation! But it was great, it’s nice to know that for all their talent, ultimately they are just normal guys.’

No doubt that sentiment goes both ways, George. Enjoy your retirement and whatever the next chapter in your life holds - hopefully it includes a few visits to the Bridge.

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