Last Saturday saw one of the most incredible sporting spectacles ever witnessed in Britain as Carl Froch and George Groves walked out in front of 80,000 people packed into Wembley arena to settle a grudge which had brewed for a little over a year.
The box-office event went spectacularly well for Sky Sports and Matchroom as all their fighters on the undercard won their bouts, with Froch ending the evening in stunning fashion by knocking Groves out in the 8th round with a thunderous right hand that would have taken down a horse.
Froch’s legacy as one of Britain’s best ever super middleweights is now secure. The conclusive nature of the finish will provide the Nottingham man with endless satisfaction as he reflects on a stellar career in which he has only been bested by the insurmountable but less entertaining Andre Ward.
For Froch to end the contemptuous affair in such a way will give him endless satisfaction as he reflects on the events of the last 9 months, since their first fight in Manchester was announced and Groves began the mind games which brought about the ‘needle’ between the pair.
The sole but significant negative for Froch is that his ungraciousness in a popular boxing magazine over the last few days will do little to endear him to the British public. His fighting style and superb boxing CV should be supported by a legion of fans similar to that enjoyed by Ricky Hatton in his heyday, but people aren’t able to warm to Froch in the way they could to Hatton, mainly because of Froch’s arrogant manner; a huge shame given his contribution to the sport.
The chorus of boos as he stepped on the scales at the weigh-in last Friday was poignant for a fighter with a record of title fights and wins as impressive as Froch’s. It can be argued that his very self-confident and cocky nature is warranted, given his hugely impressive victories over strong rivals, but the downside to this attitude is that the British public (like the Irish) find it difficult to warm to athletes with arrogant dispositions.
Groves for his part will be devastated by the nature of the defeat as much as anything else: he will always be associated with the knockout and will have to carry on with his career knowing that Froch had the last word. However, it would be hugely surprising if the 26 year old Londoner doesn’t become a world champion over his career.
At 26 years old he has fought 21 times: by comparison, Froch began his career aged 24. If managed correctly by his new partners, Sauerland Promotions, Groves should be able to thread a path towards more title fights and go on to enjoy an impressive career of his own. If he remains active and follows Froch’s example in terms of healthy living, the Londoner could compete at the top level for the best part of another decade.
The biggest gulf evident in last Saturday’s fight wasn’t quality, but rather experience. Froch’s considerable experience of world class competition stood to him in the biggest commercial fight of his career as he used his longer range and supreme fitness to stalk Groves and take full advantage of his inexperienced opponent’s smallest mistakes; this culminated in him eventually finding Groves’ chin in the 8th round with a perfectly timed punch.
By executing his gameplan so well, Froch also incurred little damage, apart from a left strong left hook by Groves in the 7th round. This will give the 36-year-old confidence going down the line that he is still in prime physical shape, should he indeed fight on, which he has indicated will be the case.
Over the last five days, Froch has given the indication that he has one fight left, with Las Vegas the preferred destination. At this point Julio Cesar Chavez Jr is the frontrunner to be named Froch’s opponent. This fight would promise to be a highly entertaining, all-action affair with a prominent boxing writer even saying that it has ‘Fight of the Year’ written all over it.
It would also most likely be the most profitable box office fight involving Froch for HBO box office in America, along with Sky Sports box office. Froch himself has spoken about leaving a legacy since defeating Kessler in May 2013, and to defeat a popular, big-punching fighter among American fans in Las Vegas would be the perfect way for him to leave the sport and cement his legacy among fight fans worldwide.
For Groves, the fact that Mikkel Kessler is in the Sauerland stable means that both could fight each other over the next year or so, perhaps after Groves fights a smaller name to get back to winning ways first. Add to this a probable rematch with bitter rival James DeGale over the next few years and it seems that Groves can still fulfill his world title dreams by using the Froch defeat as a learning experience rather than something which defines his career.
Time is on his side; now is the time to begin rebuilding.
Joe Keane, Pundit Arena.