There’s a gentle side to middleweight contender Wade Groth – but don’t tell that to his opponents.
The KO artist has had a merry time in running up a 5-0 record, four via the short route, but his day job requires a more gentle, sensitive approach.
He’s an inspector for the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, a job that requires him to keep an eye on animals – mostly strays – the length and breadth of Joburg. He says it can be tough emotionally, but he also sees rewarding things as he does his rounds.
Boxing, then, holds no fears for this 29-year-old. Indeed, with a professional MMA career behind him, he’s very much a fighting man.
Having recently signed for Golden Gloves, the plan is to get him a crack at the SA middleweight title in the coming months. It might seem a little soon – he only has 18 rounds under his belt – but he dabbled in boxing as a 16-year-old and trained plenty while earning his spurs as an MMA athlete.
“I have massive fire and passion,” he said from his home south of Joburg on Monday night. “The change has been very good and even my personal life has changed for the better. People might say a title shot is too soon, but I work extremely hard and am mentally ready. It’s been a big learning curve, especially with my first eight-rounder recently.”
He’s happy to have made the switch. He wasn’t as busy as he would have liked in MMA and he admits the fire no longer burned as hot as it once did. But boxing has rekindled the fire and he has forged a terrific partnership with trainer Raymond Serfontein.
He’s constantly asked which is tougher between boxing and MMA, but it’s a moot question. They’re vastly different sports.
“You can’t really compare,” says Groth. “In MMA, if you’re getting beaten, you can go to the ground. But in boxing, if you’re getting beaten you must make other adjustments. Let me just say I’m loving the pace, the intensity and the vibe of boxing.”[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]He brings excitement and he loads up. What’s not to like? – Rodney Berman[/perfectpullquote]
Promoter Rodney Berman likes what he sees in Groth. “He’s not a youngster, but he can fight. I’m enjoying his run to the title. He brings excitement and he loads up. What’s not to like?”
In another life, Groth might have cracked it as a soccer player. He starred for top southern suburbs club Robertsham and there was a bursary offer from the US, but MMA won his affections and that’s the craft he pursued, with no regrets. He had eight pro MMA fights and battled big names like Don Madge and Boyd Allen, earning a reputation for his endurance and toughness.
But boxing has him in its grip now. He knows that at 29 he can’t afford to lose.
“I guess I’m looking to stick around until I’m 34, 35. Along the way, I’d like to win the SA title and hopefully an international title. I look up to Vasyl Lomachenko. I kind of model myself on him . . . he’s the ultimate. With luck, I can make my own way.”
These may be early days for a latecomer like Groth, but he plans on making them count.
It’s what fighters like him do.