George Groves put in a performance against Carl Froch at the Manchester Phones4U Arena that will go down in boxing history as one of the most heroic, courageous, and audacious ever seen in the ring. All the way through the build up to the fight, Carl Froch had talked like a man who was going to roll over George Groves like a juggernaut, rattled by the younger man’s extraordinary confidence and belief.
Yet when they entered the ring it was Groves who appeared calm and focused, while the champion appeared agitated, nervous even. You sensed then that this was going to be special.
Groves told us he was going to come out and take the centre of the ring and he did exactly that, beating Froch to the jab again and again and countering with a right hand that soon began to find the mark. When sensationally he put the champion down with ten seconds left of the first round, it looked all but over. Froch confirmed his reputation as a warrior by getting up and surviving to the bell and then on to the second, throughout which his legs still appeared to be gone. For the next four rounds Groves proceeded to bully and batter the champion around the ring, in the process winning over a sell out crowd that had booed his ring entrance.
Froch looked like a fighter turning old overnight, while Groves grew in stature, taking Froch’s best shots and proving the doubters wrong in exchange after exchange.
The challenger’s tactic of jabbing to the chest was effective throughout, keeping Froch off balance while teeing up the right hand with which he found the mark time after time. The question at this point was could he keep it up and how long could Carl Froch continue to take such punishment?
By the eighth Groves had clearly tired as Froch sucked it up and appeared to catch a second wind. By now it was a ragged affair, both men fuelled by sheer will and desire. No matter, even when Froch had him against the ropes, Groves remained in the fight, countering in between Froch’s desperate hooks as the fight entered the championship rounds. Pulsating, electrifying – words don’t come close to capturing what everyone knew by now was an epic.
The crowd’s reaction when referee Howard Foster stepped in to stop the fight said it all. The ref did what he thought was right and with just seconds to decide, he erred on the side of caution. Regardless, he deprived both George Groves and Carl Froch of the ending such an epic contest deserved.
Carl Froch left the arena as the loser and Groves the champion in the hearts and minds of the crowd and everyone watching. A rematch must and will happen. But until it does let us savour the night a young fighter entered the arena to a crescendo of boos and left a hero.
Both fighters are a credit to boxing and to themselves. Carl Froch may have retained the belts but George Groves won something far more important: the respect and admiration of the millions watching who will never forget a performance worthy of a true warrior.