By Sean Crose
The crowd at Wembley Stadium in England was enormous on Saturday. Just enormous. Eighty thousand people is a huge turnout for an NFL game in the United States. For a boxing match on any continent, it almost hard to fathom. The stage was set for Froch-Froves II.
George Groves came out as if he were headlining a Super Bowl halftime show. His entrance performance – and it really was a performance – probably cost a tidy sum. By the time he made his final steps to the ropes, however, Groves looked like he was stepping out of a pub for an old school brawl. The dude was ready to fight.
Froch, the champion, came out next. Unlike Groves, Froch required no extensive pyrotechnics, no MTV friendly entrance. He simply headed to the ring quickly, looking mean and eager to brawl. The excitement leading up to the bout was simply palpable.
The ring was small and the two men headed right to the middle of it at the opening bell. They were both careful at first. As Roy Jones put it, neither man wanted to feel “the other guy’s power.” In short, it was a quiet first round. At least in the ring. The crowd , however, sounded as if it were deafening.
Groves was dropped in the second – but it was because Froch, fighting dirty, threw him down. Groves ended up getting in some good shots and took the round. Still, neither man had really opened up and the fight had a long way to go. It wasn’t turning out like Hagler-Hearns, as Groves had suggested it would, but there was a sense that the story really hadn’t started to be told yet.
The crowd started becoming restless in the third, but then the men exchanged blows and things looked to be starting to heat up…albeit marginally. They began exchanging throughout the round, with Groves always getting the last shot in. It was a close fight, but Groves was in the lead.
By the fourth Groves was peppering his man. He was clearly controlling the bout, but it looked as if Froch were hoping to gas his foe. As Max Kellerman pointed out, Groves was taking two steps for every one Froch was. Such little details often prove important in prize fights.
Froch rocked his man in the fifth. He then started roughing his man up. By the end of the round, it was the Cobra, not the man they call Saint George, who was beginning to take control. By the end of the sixth a new pattern was emerging: Froch was slowly, patiently, working Groves to the ropes, then quickly roughing him up.
Groves nailed Froch in the seventh, making him stumble back several steps. He ended up controlling the rest of the round – until, again, Froch got him against the ropes and roughed him up. By the end of the round it was clear both men were in a tight, back and fourth battle. It should be noted, however, that Froch was the one who was throwing to the body all night. Body shots count.
The bell rang again to start the eighth.
And then Groves went down.
And then the fight was stopped.
Carl Froch won the battle, won the night, and proved a changing of the guard would have to wait for a bit. He was the more mature fighter – hitting to the body, not overexerting himself and letting his confidence keep him from falling apart.
This was a fight, a rare fight, that actually lived up to the hype. When Groves, in a spirit of sportsmanship, stepped over to his conqueror to congratulate him, it was clear that all questions had been answered…and that there was nothing left to say.