A British post-War record crowd of over 80,000 fans will be on hand to witness one of the biggest fights in British boxing history when Carl Froch and George Groves face off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. To understand just why this matchup for Froch’s IBF and WBA super-middleweight belts has captivated the attention of the British public like no other since the rematch between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank 21 years ago, one only has to have watched the first fight between the pair last November.
In a classic contest between the established iron-willed veteran and the cocky upstart, Froch was floored, for only the second time in his career, by the younger Groves courtesy of a vicious right hand in the first round, just as the challenger said he would do ahead of the fight. Groves’s quick-hands and lighting attack continued to best Froch for the majority of the next seven rounds. Then in the ninth, Froch gained the upper hand and suddenly had Groves wobbling, bringing the referee jumped in to stop the fight amid vociferous protests from Groves and loud boos from the crowd. Having entered the ring to jeers, Groves left it to cheers. The rematch was sold there and then.
Groves, as did many observers, cried robbery. Froch simply claimed that the fight had turned and it was a matter of time before Groves was seriously hurt.
“He's told everyone that the first fight was a robbery,” Froch said at Thursday’s weigh-in, reports BBC Sport, which was attended by 4,000 fans. "But he knows when he looked in the mirror the following morning his face was swollen, he had two black eyes, a swollen lip and lumps all over his head.”
Froch, with a 32-2 record, had dismissed the challenge of Groves leading into the first fight. He won’t be making the same mistake this time around. But the 36-year-old, 10 years his opponent’s senior and with more than twice the number of rounds under his belt during his career, suggested Groves could crack under the magnitude of the occasion and ultimately regret petitioning for a rematch.
“The magnitude of the event could be dawning on him,” he added. “That could be why he was so quiet and subdued at the press conference. I thought he would have made one last effort to get under my skin. But he's lost the mind games all the way. Whatever he said wouldn't have been relevant.”
Yet Froch is also aware that a 12-year professional career, which has featured 11 previous world title fights and his only defeats coming against Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler, is likely to be defined by this one mega-fight. And Groves believes that it is a fight too far and one that will end Froch’s career in the most unwanted fashion.
“I don’t need to antagonize Carl,” he said, reports The Guardian. “I want him to be at peace because it is dawning on him that his day of reckoning is fast approaching. He is going to have to face the inevitable. He is like a man on death row. On Saturday, it's going to hit him like a slap in the face. It might hit him during the ring walk or it might hit him in the form of a left hook.”
Prediction: Groves thrillingly took advantage of Froch’s sluggishness early on in the first fight. The question is how much of that was down to Froch taking his opponent lightly and how much was it Groves just genuinely being too quick and ultimately technically far superior?
It is hard to envisage Groves dominating to such a degree in the early rounds, but he should still build up an early advantage on the score card. Froch’s incredible resolve has seen him make a habit of coming back into fights late on and should do so again at Wembley.
To what degree he does so depends on how much is left in the tank and whether Groves can avoid losing his discipline and getting involved in the type of tear up that suits Froch as he did last November. Froch should be much better prepared this time around, but he also has the physical and mental scarring of that early assault by Groves. If Groves learns the lessons from the first fight then he could well hold out late on to dethrone Froch on points.
Prediction: George Groves in a decision
Betting Odds (provided by Bovada.lv) Carl Froch to win: 5/8 George Groves to win: 13/10 Froch by KO, TKO or disqualification: 5/4 Froch by decision or technical decision: 3/1 Groves by KO, TKO or disqualification 4/1 Groves by decision or technical decision: 11/4 Draw or technical draw: 22/1
Where to watch: Coverage of the fight will get underway from Wembley Stadium at 4 p.m. ET on HBO.