‘I’ve got this great kid,” gushed coach Dennis Maycock at Fulham Kickboxers, “he’s only 11 but I think he could do big things.”
How right he was.
The ‘kid’ fights for two world titles at Wembley tomorrow night against Carl Froch.
George Groves switched codes when he was 14 to join Dale Youth in North Kensington where legendary coach Mickey Delaney took the lad from Hammersmith under his wing.
The rest is not quite history. But there was always a sense the first west Londoner poised to lift a world crown since Terry Downes in 1961 was going places.
Groves's amateur career was festooned with important wins, but the one that stood out had my boss suggesting we might want to invest in the man now known as St George. Sadly, she was only semi-serious.
The 17-year-old was fighting for England when he got his jaw broken in Poland, as I recall, against one of their own.
Many would have capitulated. But Groves not only ignored the obvious pain, he went on to win. Getting a result in the old eastern bloc has continued to prove elusive to most Brits, even without a horrific injury.
The real head turner was his first win over Dale club-mate James DeGale in front of a couple of hundred at Brent Town Hall in the very first local round of the ABAs in 2006.
To this day, Delaney shakes his head at the memory. He knew he had two title winners if one went up or down a division. Neither would budge an inch.
The money was on the older, more fancied DeGale to prevail, but there is a pic in our files of Chunky’s jaw hanging open in disbelief as delighted Groves lifts both arms to get the nod. He was to get it again when the pair met as professionals seven years later.
The theory from those who know both of them well is that if you want style; it’s Chunky. If you want powerful punches that hurt: it’s George.
Have they changed much since we first came across them? It’s a question I was asked a few times as we waited at Westfield for a word on Tuesday.
Not a lot, one has to say.
George is a thinker; methodical, and now astute at working an audience. He was and is loyal to those around him. I understand Delaney has ringside seats for Wembley.
Chunky is all bubbling enthusiasm. Open and engaging, both would make great dinner guests. The sad thing, or good from a promoter’s point of view, is neither would sit at the same table if they were paid more than their Wembley purses.