Forget the Sky Sports hyperbole regarding the biggest fight of British boxing history – there have been fiercer rivalries (Nigel Benn v Chris Eubank) and bigger fighters (Lennox Lewis & Joe Calzaghe) – but none of them ever had this… 80,000 voices providing a drunken cacophony of noise for elite-level, home-grown athletes. In the national stadium, Wembley – a ground the England national football team had just slayed Peru 3-0 in the night before on the road to the World Cup in Brazil next month, no less.
Pre-fight, the combatants had drawn comparisons to their intentions mirroring that of The War, a three-round 1985 middleweight championship battle between two slug-happy maniacs; victor Marvin Hagler and kayoed Thomas Hearns. If anything, it would have been a 168lb version of the Mexican shoot-out between Alfredo Angulo and sixth round TKO winner James Kirkland, who triumphed in Cancun, three years ago.
Whatever the parallel, these tough, promotion-heavy Brits did not disappoint. It was a slow-burner, yes, but this time there was finally an explosive clear-cut finish.
Result: Froch via 8th Rd KO.
Froch applied his signature low guard from the opening round. Unencumbered by the small ring, Groves jabbed and moved – an effective technique against a super middleweight who has struggled against disciplined boxers – like Andre Dirrell and even Jermain Taylor, to an extent. Groves doubled up on his useful jab. Froch had his own lead shots, but when it came to game-planning, Groves was the one effectively carrying it out, beginning each passage of play and able to exhibit a tidy enough defense.
Froch primarily targeted the noggin’, while Groves was more at ease when varying the attention he’d give the Nottingham man’s flesh. Bonce or body; Groves wanted to box. He wanted to bruise Froch’s midsection with jabs and catch his temples with clubbing left hooks whenever the opportunity presented itself – as he had warned him during fight week.
Considering the bad intentions that had been pledged at the weigh-in, Wembley Arena, yesterday, it was no surprise to hear crowd dissatisfaction in the middle of the third, when the audience began booing. Nobody paid for a tactical jab-and-go! What they paid for was a finish. A blood-soaked, balls-out, power-punch crazed slug-off. Or at least the equivalent of when a marlin impales a fisherman but the body is not found until weeks later, when bait is crawling out of an eye-socket on a rotten ship.
There’s to much tension and nerves, once they settle in we will get a war. #whatdoiknow
— Oscar De La Hoya (@OscarDeLaHoya) May 31, 2014
After four rounds, Amir Khan claimed George Groves was in control. He said from ringside: “The only times he gets caught is when he stands there, at the moment I have Groves ahead on points. He’s boxing a great fight and sticking to a game-plan.”
In round six, the small ring came into effect. In truth, the best chances Froch had were whenever Groves was backed against to the ropes. In this position, Froch could peel-off a four-punch flurry to the body with Groves only able to block from short-range whilst taking one or two. When in the ring centre, if Froch attempted similar combinations, the Saint had the space to maneuver his arms into parrying position whilst having the necessary range to say ‘f*ck off‘ with his defensive jab.
Groves lost the fifth and sixth but showed a big response and demonstrated an effective method of mugging Froch even when he had his back to the ropes in the next round. Groves tagged the champion with his prophetic left jab-hook; a punch the Cobra strutted straight into and so was legitimately stunned momentarily afterwards. What made the shot even sexier, was that Groves’ right hand was kept tight to his cheek, in order to protect any countering effort from Froch. Don’t sweat the technique.
While Groves appeared to have all the momentum, his concentration and poise were interrupted by the Cobra who pounced unexpectedly in the eighth round to switch off the Londoners’ light-bulb, out cold before the count could even be fully administered. Groves required at least three minutes to eventually come up from his stool – with both men finally touching gloves after much bad blood.
What a victory for Froch.
Having trailed behind due to Groves’ strategy, Froch fainted then came in with a hook right-hand, which kept Groves’ eyes away from the clean landing big right. This was a definitive finish – he knocked Groves cold.
What a victory for Froch.
Having had to come out the pantomime villain due to the nature of the first fight’s ending last year, Froch had to take the boos despite holding super middleweight gold around his waist, something he retained with this win, on a grand stage, with ticker-tape exploding all over his sweat-soaked frame – the jeers were now cheers.
Froch had a world title before he even progressed all the way through the Super Six gauntlet, coming out second-best in the tournament’s final. He lost versus pound-for-pound candidate Andre Ward, but produced a career-best punch-off with Lucian Bute in his come-back, fighting possessed against a Canadian who has never been the same since. He’s out-gunned Jean Pascal, came-from-behind to flip Jermain Taylor’s lid, bullied Arthur Abraham and got the better of Mikkel Kessler in their do-over last year.
But this topped the lot.
Froch retained his IBF and WBA world title belts and can continue an already accolade-laden career.
“I’m feeling elated, this is the best moment of my boxing career,” said Froch. “I’ve been involved in terrific fights with great champions but I’m proud of this event and so George Groves should be. It was neck and neck in there with me and George, it was close, it was stand-off and sometimes it only takes one punch.
“When you’ve got a punch like I’ve got, unfortunately for George he was on the end of a right hand from a seasoned champ like myself.”
Groves said: “I’m fine, this is boxing. Fair play to Carl, he caught me. I went down… I felt I was doing well in the fight, I was in my groove, Carl caught me… I’ll come back and I look forward to that.
“I feel I’ve let myself down,” the 26-year-old added. “Congratulations to Carl, he’s got the punch. I wish him all the best.”
Froch noted: “Groves is quicker than me but I have more range and height. Timing beats speed. He hit me with the jab at times but the main adjustment was my focus, I stuck to my boxing and I timed my right hand – I knew it would only take a few on his chin. Last time, I was rushing it and I went into one, round one.
“Me and Robert McCracken had a game-plan and that was executed perfectly tonight. I had been working on it for three months in the gym. I’m amongst it in the elite – and that’s who George Groves has been in with.”
Promotor Eddie Hearn stated: “Everything in Froch’s career came down to tonight. George is a great fighter, it was a pleasure working with him, but time and time again Froch has done it and he is one of the greatest British fighters ever.”
Concluding, Froch – now 33-2-0, 24ko said: “I could never top this, thanks to the British fans. To put boxing in the limelight like this, we’ll look back. But I want to fight in Las Vegas. There is James DeGale, who looked good earlier. And there is Sakio Bika. I have had an unbelievable career.”
One of the most eagerly-awaited rematches in British boxing history arrives later this month as George Groves has a second shot at Carl Froch’s two super middleweight titles in front of an 80,000 audience at Wembley Stadium. Heading into the first bout, Groves was an underdog and despite losing via cruel 9th round TKO, he is perceived as a legitimate threat due to his hard-punching and exquisite boxing performance throughout the ruckus. Frank Buglioni predicts the outcome of the do-over…
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has long demonstrated an uncanny ability to get into the head of his opposition, or even the media, in an attempt to deflect attention away from his team. With Lee Froch, dual super middleweight world titlist Carl has a member of his camp who is diverting column inches away from the controversial outcome of the first match-up with challenger George Groves and onto himself.
When the first fight was booked for November last year, Groves detractors suggested the Londoner did not have the necessary experience at elite level, however, as both men engaged in their press obligations during the build-up of their Manchester tussle, it appeared Froch lost a mental edge – even seemingly on the verge of breaking down on national television as he failed to control the adrenaline, the emotions, of a youthful and enthusiastic challenger explaining to him just how he was going to outbox him and out-power him.
Of course, for the vast majority of rounds at the Phones4U Arena in Lancashire, Groves did just that – he even had the champion on the canvas in the very first round in what was arguably the shock moment in British boxing for 2013 – and was the victim of what American audiences term a ‘British stoppage’ when referee Howard John Foster pulled the Saint from the contest in the ninth round.
Now the rematch has been organised for May 31 at the most high profile venue Matchroom Sports head of boxing Eddie Hearn could have booked, Wembley Stadium in front of an estimated 80,000 fans, the pre-fight chatter could be about an imminent changing of the guard… a new heir to a 12 stones throne steeped in British history going back from Froch, to Joe Calzaghe, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Herol Graham.
One need only look at the footage from the first fight to see Groves has the power to hurt Froch, he also has the ability to out-box him, all he needs is to stay disciplined and there may be no moment of madness from a man who perhaps had one too many Fosters, who was even cited by the IBF to have ‘misread’ the situation.
Froch may also have had an off night. A fully-motivated Cobra is a dangerous thing… something he may not have been four months ago, by his own admission, and a state of mind he has already employed in order to give Groves a beating so efficient that the room of doubt that exists due to the first brawl may be sufficiently removed.
“The last time I have felt this mentally switched on, focused, happy and confident was before I fought Lucian Bute, and we all know what happened there,” warned Froch, reminiscing over his 2012 stuffing of the erstwhile seemingly unstoppable Canadian, whom he destroyed in five one-sided rounds in a triumph so resounding that Bute has not been the same ever since – akin to Calzaghe’s thumping of one-time American hype-job Jeff Lacy.
That not many have been focusing on the age gap between Froch, 36, and Groves, 25, the fact that it is in the latter’s manor: “We’re here in Wembley, my home city,” said Groves recently. “Carl has to travel here from Nottingham and fight me in front of my home fans,” or that few advantages have been given to Saint George despite his successes in the first bout, speaks highly of the effectiveness of Lee Froch.
Lee, like Groves’ favourite football team Chelsea, has wittingly or unwittingly, entered into mind-game psychology.
Even though Chelsea lead the Premier League table – and looked likely to since the start of 2014 – manager Jose Mourinho seemed loathe to acknowledge his own side as favourites and instead attempted to encumber Manchester City with that tag while consistently reminding Arsenal adversary Arsene Wenger of his trophyless run… a run that would have gotten him fired had he endured such a period of failure at any of the clubs he has bossed – Real Madrid, Internazionale, FC Porto.
Lee Froch has taken heat away from Carl Froch by doing the trash-talk himself.
Trainer/father Angel Garcia is often the mouth-piece for his fighter/son Danny Garcia. Angel is fiery, while Danny is calm. Angel attracts interest, the pre-fight headlines, thus allowing Danny to focus on the fight.
This is no different.
Lee, in the words of an ITV journalist, has been doing the talking for Carl and thus far, it’s seemingly worked, yet the effectiveness of any such tactic can only truly be assessed once the final bell has been heard on May 31. If Lee continues to stand by brother Carl’s side and do the berating of Groves for him, making George focus on him rather than Carl, then Carl must get on with the job at hand to get into the frame of mind he wasn’t in for the first Groves bout and was for Bute.
If he can’t, there may not be a Foster to provide him with a repeat respite this time around.
The decision to pull George Groves out of his world title contest versus Carl Froch on Saturday, November 23 may be one that haunts referee Howard Foster. Groves, for much of the fight, was boss… the ring general, the daddy, yet the first series of punches that appeared to trouble him, he was withdrawn by the third man. The box office presenters were indignant at the decision, but how did the wider boxing industry react?…
WBA/IBF super middleweight world title challenger George Groves lost his challenge for Carl Froch’s unified belts on Saturday, November 23 but won over the fans who fervently booed him on his way to the Phones4U Arena ring, Manchester, as well as winning the event and international acclaim. The story of the fight, though, was the cruel manner in which he was halted by an all-too-eager referee…
Tony Bellew and Isaac Chilemba will fight again in an official final eliminator for the WBC light heavyweight title on the sold-out Carl Froch vs Mikkel Kessler bill at the O2 Arena in London on May 25. The pair clashed at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on March 30 with the contest ending in a draw, and now Bellew says he intends to grab his second chance with both hands.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to put things right,” said Bellew. “I have to get my head down and work doubly hard in the weeks ahead of the fight to make sure the job gets done properly this time around.
“I’ve had a bit of stick but I can take it and I’ve learned from what happened. It’ll be a different fight this time around – the first fight should’ve been a great one but it just didn’t work out that way. I won’t be making predictions this time, just concentrating on working hard and beating Isaac to land that world title shot.”
Chilemba travels to England once more to tackle Bellew, and the Malawian intends to shock the Scouser on the biggest stage of all: “For most opportunity knocks once, I’ve been fortunate and with my blessing of a second chance I will not leave my future in anyone else’s hands. I believe I won the first fight but that’s now irrelevant – but I will be winning the second fight.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn added: “I’m over the moon to add this fight to a special night of boxing. Both men have a score to settle and I take my hat off to them for agreeing the rematch so quickly. I think you will see a different kind of fight this time, no one will leave it to chance and both need to make a statement this time around.”
IBF super middleweight titlist and 35-year-old Nottingham native Carl Froch (30-2-0, 22ko) has joined Premiership footballers such as Darren Bent and London 2012 athletes to appear in an HIV awareness campaign launching this month in East London.
The Saving Lives Avengers will feature in posters and leaflets across The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to promote an innovative offering of routine HIV testing to all patients having blood tests taken in the emergency department. The campaign is a collaboration between Barts Health NHS Trust and Saving Lives, a national HIV awareness charity which enjoys the support of many sporting stars.
The Saving Lives Avengers aim to educate patients and raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing and IBF super middleweight champion Froch thinks the role is an important one: “If people like me who are in the public eye can attract attention to a topic which people might otherwise ignore, that can only be a good thing,” he says.
Among the Saving Lives Ambassadors is London-born England and Aston Villa striker, Darren Bent. “You hear a lot of silly claims about taking a test damaging your chances of getting insurance or a mortgage, but it’s not true. Saving Lives is raising awareness about HIV, how we can control it, and how people can live a long and happy life.”
Nationwide, one in four of those with HIV are unaware they are infected, and the area served by The Royal London has an estimated HIV population five times higher than the national average (6 in every 1000 people). The new effort is designed to diagnose the undiagnosed.
“HIV can be symptomless for a long time,” explains Dr Chloe Orkin, the Barts Health HIV Consultant behind the routine testing plan. “That means it’s very easy for people not to be diagnosed until it’s too late for today’s life-saving treatments to have their best effect. People are still dying of HIV in the UK – but only because they test too late.”
The offer of routine testing is unusual, and aims to show that in high-prevalence areas wider HIV testing can have an impact on the numbers of people living with undiagnosed HIV. Currently, patients and their doctors must specifically request a test.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around HIV,” explains Dr Steve Taylor, HIV Specialist at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and Medical Director of Saving Lives. “One of the things our campaigns and sporting advocates help do is correct some commonly-held out-dated myths that perpetuate this stigma which make the lives of people living with HIV very difficult.
Getting tested, looking after your sexual health, education and prevention are what it’s all about. If people have taken risks and by that I simply mean having unprotected sex; then there is every reason to get tested it could save your life.”
London 2012 medal-winning hockey player Sally Walton adds: “Without the test, you run the risk of passing on HIV to your nearest and dearest, and even to potential children through pregnancy. Today’s treatments can help you live a long, healthy life – so there’s no reason not to get a test done.”
A similar campaign conducted at the end of 2012 in Birmingham was cited by 16% of 1800 clinic attendees as part of the reason for taking the test – half of those respondents had no other exposure to sexual health messages in the previous 3 months.
Dan Hartland, Director of Operations for Saving Lives said “We would like to make our Saving Lives Avengers resources available to every City council and Hospital in the country. In this way the hugely expensive costs of such a multimedia campaign featuring stars such as these could be shared and lessened at a time when NHS budgets are very tight, but there is still an urgent need for a new HIV awareness campaign.”
The pilot campaign runs throughout the month of April at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
Alan Dawson – London
Carl Froch‘s first defence of his IBF super middleweight world title was as swift as it was brutal as he knocked American challenger Yusaf Mack out with an acute body punch in the third round of their confrontation at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham on Saturday, November 17. Froch’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports, wants only the elite for Froch in 2013 and spoke of potential rematches with Lucian Bute, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward.
Official verdict: Froch by 3rd Rd TKO.
Boxing with the Stars and Stripes on his trunks and adopting his trademark slick style with his left mitt low, Mack (31-5-2, 17ko) appeared unfazed at the rowdy reception provided by the partisan English crowd. However, like Lucian Bute in May, Mack had no answer when he was bum-rushed by Froch (30-2-0, 22ko) and suffered a flash knockdown in the first round before looking unsteady and ready to fall a second time mere moments from the bell.
Upon replay, though, the knockdown may have been aided by leg entanglement, but Mack’s body language when on his stool between rounds was that of a man who was shocked at the effectiveness of the bombardment he was forced to endure in the opening three minutes.
In the second round, Froch, 35, varied his jabbing to the mouth and to the gut. Midway through the stanza, he threw combinations to the sides of the Philadelphian’s body and, when Mack had his back to the ropes, there was a fan-friendly kerfuffle as both men swapped heavy leather, explosive bombs and egotistical smiles. While Froch got the better of each argument, Mack was no slouch when it came to retaliation and enjoyed most of his success with his left cross.
Froch worked behind his under-rated jab in the third round and his focus was mostly upstairs as Mack’s adapted Philly-Shell guard prevented access to the body. When Mack let his hands go, though, he left his body unprotected and this became his undoing as he was felled for a second time with a tortuous blow just above the belt-line. The decisive flurry included a right to the rib cage, a left to the body and a left to the skull before Mack submitted to his knees and required paramedic attention – perhaps due to broken, or at least severely battered and bruised, ribs.
“I get my body in A-level condition,” said the ageless Froch to Sky Sports 1 following the official announcement of his win. “If anyone comes in below par – that is what happens to them. Physically I feel at my best, I’m smashing my personal bests in training. Mentally, I’m dealing with these opponents. He didn’t come out sharp, I found my range early and them body shots would have hurt.”
Promoter Hearn spoke of Froch’s future: “[Bute and his management have] got to decide whether they want the fight. We’re contractually obliged to go over there [but] I don’t think there is one super middleweight out there – Andre Ward included – who can beat Carl Froch in Nottingham. Bute, [Mikkel] Kessler and Ward. That’s who we want in 2013 and the more fights in Nottingham the better.”
Alan Dawson – London
Light heavyweight contender Tony Bellew hopes to follow in the footsteps of Matchroom Sports stablemate and welterweight campaigner Kell Brook when it comes to guaranteeing himself a mandatory shot at a world title. Bellew, 29, collides with fellow 175lber Roberto Bolonti on Saturday, November 17 and believes a win will act as a springboard to an eventual attempt at claiming the WBC belt, currently held by Chad Dawson.
“I want to put the pressure on someone like Chad Dawson to face me,” Bellew (18-1-0, 12ko) said ahead of his Capital FM Arena test in Nottingham.
Known for his concussive punch power, his ability to adapt in the ring and for giving countryman Nathan Cleverly a competitive battle for the latter’s WBO title last year, Bellew believes his reputation within Britain is working against him abroad as he is now regarded to be “maximum risk/minimum reward”. He added: “I am not a lucrative match for people to face.” As a result, the likeable Liverpudlian believes he has “to force one of these champions” into a fight.
“It might not be a WBC, it might be an IBF challenge to Tavoris Cloud. I don’t know which it is going to be but all I want to do is become a mandatory challenger, very similar to the way Kell Brook has done it.
“Roberto Bolonti is another step in the right direction, it is a WBC eliminator and it is for the Silver title. He is number five with the WBC and this should propel one of us into the top three in my opinion, so I am hoping to get fast tracked to the WBC.”
The light heavyweight landscape is one dominated by the presence of a quartet of North Americans including the returning former Ring Magazine champion Jean Pascal, heavy-hitting Tavoris Cloud and veteran ring king Bernard Hopkins. It is Chad Dawson, though, who Bellew ranks atop the lot.
“I believe Chad Dawson is the best light heavyweight in the world. I know he had the contentious fight with Jean Pascal but I believe he would have stopped Pascal if the fight would have been allowed to carry on, so I think Pascal got really lucky the cut came when it did.
“I do believe that Dawson is the best in the division and aside from him I feel everyone is on a level playing field. Bernard Hopkins, in terms of experience, is up there with Dawson but as an actual fighter I believe Dawson is proven to be the best light heavyweight out there. But I would be happy to fight him.”
If an Anglo-American feud were to develop between Dawson and Bellew, the Englishman would draw confidence from how Bad Chad was defeated by super middleweight lineal champion Andre Ward. He noted: “There is now a blueprint to beat Chad Dawson after what Andre Ward did [knocked him out], so I would be happy to go in there and carry out what Ward did to him.”
Bellew fights Bolonti on the “True Brit” card that is headlined by Carl Froch versus Yusaf Mack.