So, last Saturday, I was at work having my weekly chat about football with my boss when he brought up something new- boxing! I’ve always been interested in boxing but, up to this point, I haven’t regularly followed it. The way my boss emphasised the importance of the sport, with volume and gesticulation, sparked my interest and so I started to research the next big fight on the boxing calender, Carl Froch v George Groves.
To begin with, some context to the fight.
Froch and Groves both fight in the Super-Middleweight category, the third heaviest category in professional boxing with a limit of 76.2kg. This category is reliant on a balance of swift movements and powerful attacks to out-wit and overpower the opponent. There are four highly recognised belts to be won in Super-Middleweight- the WBA (World Boxing Association), WBC (World Boxing Council), IBF (International Boxing Federation) and WBO (World Boxing Organisation). The titles are held by someone and then challenged by someone else. The current holders are Sakio Bika (WBC) and Arthur Abraham (WBO).
According to Ring, a magazine described as “the bible of the sport”, ‘The Cobra’ is the best fighter in his division
The WBA and IBF are currently held by Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch, born in Nottingham and one half of this massive fight. His professional début came on 16th March 2002 against Michael Pinnock. Since then, he has gone on to win 32 out of 34 fights, 23 of them ending with a KO. Aged 36, he is 6ft 1in and has a reach of 72 inches, relying a great deal on his right hand punch. According to Ring, the boxing magazine described as “the bible of the sport”, ‘The Cobra’ is ranked as the best fighter in his division, having spent 411 weeks on the list- clearly a man with a long-standing reputation to uphold.
His opponent on Saturday is ‘The Saint’, otherwise known as George Groves. This Londoner is 10 years younger than Froch and is also shorter in height (5 foot 11 ½ inches) and reach (72 inches). Ranked in 5th by Ring having only spent 248 weeks in the list, his professional debut came on 15th November 2008 against Kirilas Psonko. From that point he has won all 19 of his fights up to a fight on 23rd November 2013, which is his only loss and is the next locus animadversionis.
23rd November 2013: Phones4u Arena, Manchester: 10pm. Carl Froch, defending his WBA and IBF titles for the eleventh consecutive time, was challenged by ‘The Saint’. In the first round, it was clear to everyone that ‘The Cobra’ was slacking- he kept moving his chin away, as if expecting the reply, and not believing in his punches. On the other hand, ‘The Saint’ had nothing to lose and took his time to build confidence with swifter feet and hands. He even knocked ‘The Cobra’ to the floor at one stage. This seemed to continue for the next six rounds and at halfway, a less-informed viewer would have ruled Froch out.
However, up to this point, Froch had taken a huge number of hits- from uppercuts to side jabs- and he had weathered them all. It was as if he was made of titanium, just like in every one of his previous fights, and he started to make his mark on the younger ‘Saint’. Over rounds seven to eight, it became more of an even fight as Groves started to falter and Froch brought him down to his level. Then the ninth round came along and everything descended…
In the middle of the ninth round, Froch had pushed Groves out from the corner as he held his head low. There was an open shot available to ‘The Cobra’ to pounce but the referee, Howard Forster, intervened to stop the fight looking out for the safety of ‘The Saint’. However, this was greeted with boos by the crowd as they believed Groves could have kept going as he had for the whole fight. This decision handed the bout to Froch, in a fight which was probably still in Groves’s favour. In the interview afterwards, Groves was the definition of gutted, whilst Froch claimed to have “snatched victory from the jaws of defeat”. This has installed a pure hatred in ‘The Cobra’ and ‘The Saint’ for each other. There was only one result of such a controversy: a rematch!
Because of this, the world looks forward to Froch v Groves II on Saturday 31st May at 10pm. And you thought refereeing decisions in football were controversial?!
There are several reasons why the fight on Saturday is going to be “the biggest fight in British boxing history”, as described by Eddie Hearn, big-time boxing promoter. In the build up to the fight, we have seen perfect examples of ‘fighting talk’. Froch has told us how he felt he underestimated Groves in November and has been more prepared by spending five days away from his family training with the GB Amateur squad in Sheffield. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”- Froch presents the image of someone relaxed and prepared to hurt Groves.
On Saturday, up to 80000 seats will be filled in Wembley Stadium by coaches, reporters and spectators
On the other hand, Groves believes he has Froch running scared, referencing the fact Froch has begun to see a sports psychiatrist since November. Groves wants to bring about a fight compared to the 1985 Las Vegas fight between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. This fight lasted eight minutes after Hearns, having opened a wound in Hagler’s eyebrow, was ‘KO’ed by the sheer power of Hagler. By promising something so brutal, Groves has made his intentions clear- to destroy Froch. A psychologist would have a field-day here as both fighters make clear their pure hatred for each other, something not seen for a long time.
As well as such hatred, consider the location. Eddie Hearn took the idea of this fight to the FA and Wembley, highlighting to them the result of November’s fight and how much the fighters wanted to win. It was a no brainer! On Saturday, up to 80000 seats will be filled in Wembley Stadium by coaches, reporters and spectators to cheer on either Froch or Groves. This will be the biggest attendance for a fight in British history, the previous record belonging to the fight between Ricky Hatton and Juan Lazcano (City of Manchester Stadium, 2008) with 55,000 people. There is no doubt this huge attendance on the greatest sporting stage in England will bring added pressure and will rile the fighters even more to succeed in front of the large crowds.
So, after that whistle-stop tour through the history of Froch/Groves and boxing in general, I hope you’re as excited for the big fight as I am. Because of the pure hatred between the fighters and the consequences of a controversial decision, the stage is set at Wembley stadium for ‘The Cobra’ and ‘The Saint’ to fight it out to settle this situation. Whilst Groves seeks justice, Froch seeks to maintain his extraordinary reputation. One senses this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ moment and I am eagerly anticipating the fight on Saturday. I would fully recommend popping down to your local on Saturday night- this one could be tasty!