On Saturday night at the Manchester Arena the hugely hyped war between Carl Froch and George Groves was fought over an incredible 9 rounds of toe to toe boxing at it’s very near best. The big favourite Froch who holds the WBA and IBF Super Middleweight Titles having earned the right to be called unified Champion after a tremendous fight history of beating the best of the best in his division, was now fighting the young 25 year old George Groves. When the fight was announced a few months ago, I (and many others) questioned Groves’ experience and youth, to be thrown into the lions den against such a dangerous opponent such as The Cobra. I was never in doubt of Groves’ ability, but my concern was his experience to be up against Froch, and I predicted a very quick clinical early stoppage. How wrong was I (and many other fight fans) going to be?…….
The fight sold out in record time of only an hour or so, following the hype surrounding this fight’s announcement by Eddie Hearn from Matchroom Sports, and we were in for some interesting interviews from both men as they prepared for the biggest fight in Groves career. From the start Groves was self assured and dealt with the pressure in a calm relaxed way, which showed he had matured into a fighter who mentally at least, was ready for war. It was noted that Froch was somewhat angry at Groves and the younger fighter appeared to of genuinely gotten under the skin of the champion. This was a rare glimpse of Froch’s armour developing a very slight chink, which Groves happily exposed in the lead up to the weigh in.
The fight began with the 2 fighters being a little bit pensive for the first few minutes with Groves defending beautifully, but also taking the fight to Froch who was testing the water against the younger fighter in his approach and not firing off many combinations with much substance or power. Groves unleashed a huge right hand punch to Froch’s body, which sent him down to the canvas and wincing in pain. The sell out crowd erupted into an absolute frenzy as people were trying to comprehend what they had just witnessed in the 22 foot square ring in Manchester. The referee Howard Foster immediately counted Froch, who got up in pretty quick time but appeared very loose in his legs. Groves dived back in, but Froch was somehow elusive enough to survive the first round. What was noted at this time, was how quickly Groves’ supporters were allot more vocal as the tide had turned very quickly for their fighter. The fight was most definitely on.
From the second round Groves used his very fast foot work to get out of the way of any punches which Froch tried to use, and he became more and more frustrated with the speed of Groves offensive game plan, which was working from every angle. By the 4th round Froch’s face was showing signs that he was in a war and his corner were becoming more and more nervous of the possibility that the titles will be coming to London within the next half an hour. Froch just wasn’t the Cobra in there and it seemed obvious that the score cards will also show this judging by the SkyTV pundits and the many discussions that I was having with my friends at home.
The bell for the 9th round sounded and the 2 fighters went toe to toe from the offset with both scoring points with combinations, but Groves was showing more class with the precision and accuracy that he showed in his punches. However from nowhere The Cobra struck with a 3 punch combination to Groves which rocked the challenger to his boots, and in this split second he was nearly being taken out, and at this point the referee Howard Foster grabbed George by the shoulders as he was turning away from Froch and called the fight off. The crowd at the arena, the tv pundits, and I am sure the millions watching at home were almost screaming blue murder at the decision of Howard Foster, who up to this point had refereed the fight in a exemplary and professional manner. It first appeared that there was no need for this and was somewhat unfair and too quick of a decision to step in. However we must all remember that referee’s have to make a split second life or death decision, which really can make all the difference to the wellbeing of the fighters. As much as it appeared a strange and somewhat unjust decision, there must of been something of grave concern which he saw that instigated his call. Mr Foster’s stoppage has to be respected by all fight fans given the obvioous risks and dangers of boxing which is in the hands of the referee. This makes boxing the most exciting sport in the world, but we must realise the pressure and responsibilities that boxing referee’s are under every time they step in the ring.
It was certainly a shock as Groves appeared to be way ahead on the score cards, due to the first round knock down, but also with his ring generalship, which he showed in all the rounds leading up to the 9th. But it was announced that he was not as far ahead as everyone had realised, with Groves being only 2 points ahead on 2 cards.
Both fighters gave it their all in not only the fight, but the pre fight promotions that we all enjoyed for the weeks leading up to the fight, which made this into the years biggest fight. What I was pleased about was at the beginning of the night, how Groves received a very frosty reception from the Manchester crowd, but when he left he was cheered by everyone in the arena, It almost reminded me of Rocky 4 with Balboa fighting Drago in Moscow:)
Everyone knew how close he had been to a historical victory against one of the most dangerous Super Middleweight fighters in the world. Groves will come away from this a much more respected and popular fighter, and one day he will be a world champion, I have no doubt of, and he must now be considered one of the top ranked contenders in this tough division. As for Carl Froch, many will say that he was lucky to of won this defence. Froch was the winner of the fight, but not of the crowd.
No one could of predicted the end of this one. But as they say folks….. ”that’s boxing!”