By Tyson Bruce
George Groves put on a master class performance for eight rounds. Then, after being stunned by Froch in the ninth round Howard Foster, incredulously, stopped the fight. Groves had been gradually starting to tire, but to call that stoppage premature is the understatement of the century. It may have been the worst I’ve ever witnessed in all my time covering boxing.
In the first round both men came out trying to establish the jab, but it became readily apparent that Groves had a decisive edge in hand speed. Then, as the round was nearing its conclusion, Groves absolutely leveled Froch with a booming straight right hand. Froch was in desperate trouble and was probably saved by the bell. Froch has gained a reputation for having one of the best chins in the business, and had only previously been down one time in his entire career against Jermain Taylor way back in 2009. This was much more serious.
If Froch’s plan was to bull rush Groves the way he did Lucian Bute, then that plan went out the window very quickly. In round 2-7 Froch tried to establish his jab and explode with periodic bursts of aggression. Groves, however, was light years ahead of Froch and beat him to the jab consistently. Groves also landed a laser right hand over Froch’s low left hand with disturbing regularity.
Froch has never been the prettiest guy to watch and although he has always appeared to lack speed, he has always managed to make up for it with adept timing and deceiving quickness. His Achilles heel has always come against guys with hand and foot speed. Andre Dirrell and Jermain Taylor both exploited Froch’s lack of speed and coordination but were eventually overcame by the ‘Cobra’s’ sheer determination. Until tonight only Andre Ward had decisively outclassed Froch. So, regardless of the fights dubious ending Groves showed that he is a world-class super middleweight.
Although Froch had his moments, probably edging the fifth round, it wasn’t until about round eight when Froch really started to get into the fight. Although Groves was still winning rounds, from about round six on he was beginning to noticeably tire at the end of the rounds. Froch, as is his custom, showed tremendous stamina and a great chin by hanging in a fight he was decidedly loosing. Froch has his best round of the fight in the eighth round, stunning Groves with a flurry of punches. However, an intentional forearm and a punch on the break drew warning from referee Howard Foster, buying Groves’ valuable time to recover.
In the ninth round the fast pace continued and Froch’s physical strength and fitness was really starting to leave its mark on the fight. It was clear to anyone watching the fight that sand in Groves’ hourglass was beginning to run out. Then Froch bullied Groves to the ropes and landed a head snapping right hand followed by about three more hard shots. Groves, probably sensing that staying on the ropes would spell his doom, attempted to fight his way off the ropes when referee Foster inexplicably intervened.
At first I though he was simply interrupting the action with an ill timed warning of some kind because the thought of stopping the fight that soon was just so beyond the scope of logic. Was Groves hurt? Absolutely. But he was fighting his ass off and winning the fight, and had certainly earned the right to try and bounce back. This is boxing after all, not fencing or tap dancing. Someone is supposed to have a headache after the fight. If Groves had been dominated the whole fight and taken a real beating then a quick stoppage would be somewhat understandable, but this was a farce. Froch may well have been on his way to a stoppage victory but Groves, who led on all three cards, had earned the right to try and come back.
Froch, should feel very lucky because he really got away with one tonight. He may very well be coming to the end of the best years of his career because he struggled greatly trying to cope with Groves’ speed and superior athleticism. All and all, it was a tremendous fight with a ridiculous ending. Boxing once again revealed that it truly the theatre of the unexpected. Lets all hope Froch does the right thing and gives Groves an immediate rematch.