False Hopes: Carl Froch KO8 George Groves

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Carl Froch gained sweet revenge in a fight where vengeance was not exclusively his to gain last night. Before 80,000 chanting witnesses at London’s Wembley Stadium, Froch landed a right hand in the eighth round that left George Groves as silent as the crowd was thundering, putting to rest months of pre-fight filibustering in a way most every person ever antagonized has dreamed.

Froch is, in many ways, a cliché: he is a man’s man, a warrior, tough as nails; however lazy the use of such terms may be. There are exceptions to every rule, however—is that not itself a cliché?—and Froch, an exception to many a prizefighting rule, is perhaps an exception to the rules of good writing as well. Calling Froch a real fighter, reducing whatever he brings to a prizefight—be it textbook or unorthodox, familiar or idiosyncratic—to a handful of overused phrases does not diminish the praise. What he has accomplished over his 12 year career may not be legendary, but Froch makes fun fights against top competition, and it is no small criticism of the current state of boxing that this distinguishes him from his peers. Nor should boxing’s weak state diminish what he has accomplished: Froch is no less the fighter because general expectations are low.

Of course, it takes two to make a fight, and for the second time in consecutive tries, Groves, the ex-sparring partner turned would-be executioner, provided a worthy challenge. Groves had Froch stumbling in the shadows of a half-lit consciousness last November, nearly ending their first fight in the first round with the first big punch he landed. Unable to prop open that window of opportunity, Groves eventually succumbed to Froch’s arrhythmic mayhem in the ninth round. Controversy over the stoppage ensued, a rematch ensued, as did a second stoppage, one worlds more emphatic than the first.

Froch, Nottingham, UK, did not step between the ropes and cow Groves, however. No, for as long as he remained upright, Groves proved he belonged in the super middleweight mix. He fought Froch on even terms, stinging, slashing and slipping until Froch’s right hand deboned him.

Groves used feints and quick feet to keep Froch from finding the range he needed to throw with abandon. Unlike the first fight, however, where the scent of blood gave him false hope, Groves, Hammersmith, UK, sublimated his disdain into a controlled attack, one intended to apportion his energy over twelve effective rounds. Yet while Groves was winning the early battle of ring generalship, it was hard to envision him winning the fight on the strength of a sharp jab and nifty footwork. Froch was slowly making a fight of it, and jabbing alone would not keep Groves safe.

Despite getting tagged, Froch stuck his mashed, reddening nose in long enough to dig into Groves’ body, sapping the nimbler fighter of the stamina and mobility his survival depended on. Moreover, where Groves had lit Froch up in the early exchanges of their first fight, by focusing on the body and resisting the urge to smash what must be chipped away, Froch scored without paying too stern a price.

By the sixth round, Froch, 168, claimed center ring and began backing Groves up. Froch was still eating leather—a burden his chin has long shouldered on behalf of his defense—but unlike the first fight, Froch was not digging himself out of a grave, so much as digging one for Groves. Groves responded by investing heavily in left hands, using jabs and hooks—the punch he promised to end the fight with—in a desperate struggle for breathing room. In the eighth round, Groves risked one left hand too many.

Trying to counter a cross, Groves loaded up on a left hook, opening his front shoulder just enough to allow Froch to ruin him with the same punch Groves intended to counter. Groves collapsed in an awkward heap, his left leg curled up beside him like a sleeping dog, and referee Charlie Fitch immediately waved the fight off. The official time of the stoppage was 2:43 of the eighth round. This time there was no controversy; all the talk of what could have been hardly worth humoring in face of what was and will be.

What will be for Groves, 19-2 (15), who recently signed with Sauerland Promotions, could be a fight with stablemate Mikkel Kessler. Or perhaps it will be a rematch with James Degale, the 2008 Olympic gold-medalist from London who dropped a close decision to Groves in 2011. Whomever he faces, Groves has room to improve, and should be a better fighter for what he learned against Froch.

Nearing the end of his impressive run, Froch’s future lies across the Atlantic. HBO hype-man, Max Kellerman, suggested Andre Ward, Gennady Golovkin, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as potential Froch foes. Ward, who decisioned Froch in 2011, has both a fetish for control that could sabotage his career and a gross misappraisal of his fighting worth; legal squabbles with promoter Dan Goossen, could shelve him for the year. Still, Kellerman was obligated to mention Ward, if only to try and convince us he is still a fighter. Froch, 33-2 (24), might try and derail Golovkin, a career middleweight who has long wanted to turn a star to dust. If he can see the end, however, and he would like to stuff his pockets, Froch should fix his gaze on Chavez, the bruiser with the built in fanbase and a litany of bad habits. And should that war come to fruition, we should fix our gaze on the ring.

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Tags: CARL FROCH George Groves

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