Billed as one of the biggest fights in British boxing history, the second installment of Carl Froch vs. George Groves has the ingredients of a classic. Now it just has to live up to the expectations.
Saturday’s fight for Froch’s IBF and WBA super-middleweight titles will take place at Wembley Stadium in front of a record British boxing crowd of about 80,000 fans. It features an established champion against a young pretender and a score to settle after a controversial first fight.
The rematch has been a promoter’s dream because of the dramatic first fight in Manchester last November.
The 36-year-old Froch – arguably Britain’s top boxer of the past five years – was knocked down in the first round and exposed for more than half the bout by an upstart 11 years his junior. In the ninth round, Froch finally landed some meaningful punches of his own to leave Groves wobbling, but the challenger was still on his feet when the referee stepped in to end the fight.
With the crowd howling in derision, it was an unfortunate way to end a memorable fight. It was no surprise that the IBF ordered a rematch after Groves made a complaint, and the clamor for Froch-Groves II was already irresistible.
There will be unfinished business in London, with Groves intent on sending Froch into retirement.
“We’ve been working on left hooks,” Groves said Thursday. “We know the left hook will work and it will be the left hook that finishes Carl Froch on Saturday.”
Froch was riled by the in-your-face approach of Groves during the buildup to the Manchester fight, but he clearly underestimated his rival. He ended the fight with a bruised and puffy face, his reputation slightly damaged but still with a win on his record.
Robert McCracken, Froch’s trainer, revealed after the fight that he knew Froch would have trouble with Groves’ awkward style and fast start. Groves dominated the center of the ring, hounding Froch, and will look to do the same again on Saturday.
“I gave him the advantage in the first fight, allowed him to get comfortable and let his shots go,” said Froch, who has a 32-2 record, including losses to Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward, and is contesting his 12th world title fight.
“I took too many steps back but I won’t be taking a backward step in this fight.”
Groves was jeered into the ring in Manchester and cheered out of it after his gutsy performance, which couldn’t prevent a first loss in 20 professional fights. On Saturday, he’ll be fighting in his home city and will likely be the fans’ favourite.
The fight has captured the British public’s imagination, so much so that Wembley – the home of English football – was regarded as the only setting big enough to satisfy demand.
The old Wembley hosted an unforgettable fight between Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper in 1963. The last fight at Wembley was in 1995, when Frank Bruno beat Oliver McCall in a 12-round unanimous decision to capture the world heavyweight title.
Many members of England’s World Cup squad will be present. As will Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, and her rugby-playing husband Mike Tindall.
It’s considered the biggest grudge match in British boxing since the days of the Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank rivalry in the early 1990s.
“It’s got that air about it, the air of importance,” Froch said. “With it being at the national stadium it’s obviously big. This is by far the biggest fight of my unbelievable career.
“It’s giving me the motivation and giving me the apprehension I need to perform at my best.”