In the build up to Saturday’s rematch between George Groves and Carl Froch, fight fans were unanimous in their hope for a definitive outcome, one way or the other. The first meeting between the two provided more questions than answers and part of the appeal of the rematch was to finally get those answers. On Saturday Carl Froch gave us the definitive ending we needed. It was clean, clear and clinical, as dramatic in its execution as it was emphatic in its outcome.
Seeing Wembley arena packed with 80,000 fight fans baying for action was almost a throwback to the Coliseum of ancient Rome. The atmosphere and sense of anticipation was palpable, even for those of us not fortunate enough to be there. George Groves entering the arena on the top of an old, open-top London bus seemed fitting as one of the world’s grand old sports made its return to the biggest stage in the UK.
Legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer earned his fee by further whipping up the crowd with his trademark, “Let’s get ready to rumble”. The anticipation reached fever pitch as the opening bell sounded. However, the opening round was a tentative affair. Perhaps understandably, neither fighter was willing to take a risk that might send 80,000 people home after less than 3 minutes of action. Both men were content to paw with jabs and look for openings.
The opening half of the fight played out more or less as expected. Groves was providing the better boxing and, I certainly felt, winning more rounds. However, Froch was picking his moments and when he did manage to drag Groves into a brawl he was finding some success.
After seven extremely close fought rounds Groves was narrowly ahead. However, anyone watching on Sky Box Office would have been confused as Jim Watt appeared to be watching a different fight to everyone else. The veteran Scot had Froch winning all but one of the first seven rounds. Heading into round 8, with the fight so evenly balanced and the scoring so debatable, it was difficult to keep from thinking about another boxing scorecard controversy.
Thankfully, Carl Froch ensured the judges weren’t needed. Paulie Malignaggi, working for the Sky announce team broke down the finishing punch perfectly. Froch used a little half step with his left foot to close the distance, and then threw a left hook solely with the intention of distracting Groves from the right hand. It worked to perfection.
As Groves raised his right to block the left thrown by Froch, he exposed his chin to the right hand. Froch took the chance he had so expertly set up. He drilled Groves with a perfect right hand. George crumpled to the canvas instantly. Referee Charlie Fitch didn’t even bother finishing his count and waved the fight off.
Once again Carl Froch had shown how foolish it is to write him off. He erased any doubts that lingered after the first fight and in some ways earned public redemption.
He had been, perhaps unfairly, painted as the villain after the controversial stoppage in the first fight. This result, and more importantly, and the emphatic highlight-reel knockout sent the neutral home happy.
For Froch, the attention now surely turns to Vegas. He has other options; James DeGale in another domestic showdown, a third fight with Mikkel Kessler, or even a rematch with Andre Ward but the standout option is to face Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr. in Las Vegas.
The Cobra has spoken openly about his desire to fight in Vegas at least once before he retires. Chavez is the kind of lower risk-higher reward opponent that Froch must dream about at this point. Chavez still trades on his father’s superstar status and remains a big draw in America despite his questionable ability and his unquestionable lack of dedication.
Froch-Chavez would be a huge fight and one that should guarantee fireworks as neither fighter is known for their defence and both have excellent punch resistance.
For Groves, the future is less certain. At first glance this was a devastating loss. However, those in the boxing industry perhaps focus too much on win-loss records. Despite losing both fights with Carl Froch, George Groves has seen his stock rise massively over the last 10 months.
Not many non-boxing fans would have been aware of Groves before last November and now he has headlined two big PPV events, one in front of the largest post-war British boxing crowd. I believe that outside of Froch and Andre Ward, George Groves is the best fighter in the super-middleweight division. Froch is 36 years old and Andre Ward has aspirations to move up to light-heavyweight permanently. At 26 years of age, Groves’ future at super-middleweight remains incredibly bright. He is perhaps two wins away from a world title and, more importantly, is now a household name for sports fans.
Eddie Hearn deserves enormous credit for the entire show he put on at Wembley. Often with such a big main event, promoters will ignore the undercard. However, Hearn used it to build the profile of a number of British fighters.
Anthony Joshua scored another facile victory, this time against Matt Legg. Although he only turned professional last October, Joshua is already more than ready to take a step up in class. He has blown away his first 6 opponents, none of them making it beyond the second round.
Both Jamie McDonnell (bantamweight) and Kevin Mitchell (lightweight) delivered entertaining victories which both culminated in dramatic knockouts. McDonnell in fact captured the vacant WBA Bantamweight title with his impressive win over the unpronounceable Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat. His Thai opponent proved to be both a mouthful and a handful as he put McDonnell under constant pressure before a lovely left hook in the 10th round saw the Doncaster man end the fight in stunning fashion.
The chief support was provided by James DeGale who took on unbeaten American Brandon Gonzales in an IBF super middleweight title eliminator. DeGale’s career has stagnated in recent years. Three years ago he lost a close decision against Groves in a bitter domestic showdown. Since that fight, Groves’ career has really kicked on whilst DeGale has been very slow in rebuilding.
On Saturday he looked impressive in knocking out Gonzales in the 4th round. Although the stoppage was certainly premature, DeGale had floored Gonzales with a lovely combination earlier in the 4th round and had looked very impressive throughout the fight.
Gonzales, trained by Amir Khan and Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter, had come over with a big reputation and an impressive record but had no answer for DeGale’s speed and awkwardness.
DeGale is now mandatory challenger for Carl Froch’s IBF title. Although he says he wants the fight with Froch, I think it may be too soon for DeGale in terms of the step up in class and in terms of his appeal to the British public. I would not be surprised at all if he agreed to take step-aside money and allow Froch to fight Chavez next.
Perhaps DeGale may feature on the undercard of that fight or headline his own show in the UK to drum up interest in a future bout with Froch should the Cobra defeat Chavez and decide to continue boxing.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.