By Cliff Rold
The fight ended on a whale of a right hand in round eight but, really, it was over at the end of the fourth. After losing most of the first three rounds, Carl Froch caught George Groves with a big shot late in the fourth and took over with a nasty body attack in the fifth. When he finally lowered the boom with the closing bomb, in front of some 80,000, Froch had completed a significant transition.
Before the fight, he was already established as one of the better fighters of his time. Before the fight, he’d already amassed a resume worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, facing the most consistently challenging run of foes in the sport in the last six years. After the fight, he’d finally stamped what his place in British and hardcore boxing lore will likely be.
Carl Froch is the fighter as folk hero.
There are fighters who have defeated him in his time, and fighters historically who would have as well. It’s inconsequential to his real value. His willingness to face anyone, to both say he will and do it, his passion in the ring in a passion sport, make him a rare figure who moves beyond the mere value of wins and losses.
Some fighters are remembered for what they did and rated by historians on that measure. A rare few combine that technical evaluation with the joy of ‘Remember when’s’ that can swallow people backwards in time and make them feel like they’re seeing it live again. Some of those fighters were genuine greats (think Erik Morales and Roberto Duran); some were just of world-class esteem (think Arturo Gatti and Bobby Chacon).
They exceed the bare stats. They make fight fans proud of being fight fans.
Froch is cut from that cloth. It’s not something that can be pinned to any one fight. It’s the full, bloody, beautiful body of work. The wars with Jean Pascal and Mikkel Kessler, the comebacks against Jermain Taylor and Groves, the evisceration of Lucian Bute, even the desperate late attempts to reverse fortune against Andre Ward, all of it in near succession, are a living testimony to what can be accomplished when a fighter doesn’t take soft touches and just keeps their foot on the gas when their opportunity is at hand.
He hasn’t done it with the prettiest style or divine talent. He’s done it with work ethic, guts, immense mental strength, and defined ring character. At 36, one never knows how much longer he has. His contribution to the game is already more than fulfilled.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Froch B; Groves B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Froch B+; Groves B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Froch B-; Groves B/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Froch A; Groves B+/Post: A; B
Looking strictly at the fight, Groves again got off to the better start but it was evident right away that Froch was in better form than the first time around. Less sluggish than the first time, Froch wasn’t there to be caught as frequently and subtly made defensive adjustments.
No, Froch never stopped being open but he was taking less punishment overall this time and hid well behind the shoulder as the rounds progressed. When he stepped it up, he was the more versatile man. Going to the body, and mixing up the left and right, he was able to overwhelm Groves in spots starting in the fifth and keep him going backwards. Groves had a jab and right hand but no answer when Froch went to the body.
How much will the disappointment take out of Groves going forward? It’s hard to say but Groves should still have a bright future. His early win over a James DeGale who looks like a very real, looming threat to Froch told all that he was for real. Losing to Froch is no shame and Groves can remain a contender. He’ll have to work on relaxing a bit or late fades could become habit.
For Froch, expect the future to be more tough fights. He doesn’t do it any other way. Recall how many were ready to get their ‘aha’ moment when it looked like he might not fight Groves again after their controversial first affair? Froch took the fight.
That’s what he does.
If Andre Ward wants to make the most money of his career (and probably not by a little) and travel to the UK, Froch would probably fight him again. There’s no denying Ward is the better man in the ring and, if Froch wants the chance to say he was the absolute best at 168 in his time, he has to beat him. Being the better fighter isn’t the most distinct factor in making that fight.
For now, the richest option appears to be Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in what would be a big money event and a fun scrap. DeGale, a winner on the Froch-Groves undercard and former Gold Medalist, looms as a mandatory for Froch’s IBF belt (Froch also holds the WBA’s sub-strap beneath Ward) and is a threat. DeGale is a serious factor at 168.
HBO also mentioned a showdown with WBA Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin and who wouldn’t want to see that? Golovkin looks like a destroyer but he hasn’t faced anything close to Froch’s level of foe. It would be a violent showdown of ‘might be’ and ‘is.’ A possible rubber match with Kessler can’t be ignored either. Their rivalry is tied up with two excellent fights in the books.
Note that in the whole bunch, the closest thing to a soft touch is Chavez and he’s a tough kid. In other words, don’t expect Froch to stop being Froch anytime soon. He’ll keep pressing for until he’s done giving what he has to give. You don’t become a folk hero any other way.
Report Card Picks 2014: 28-9
Shy of the Soliman repeat over Sturm, it was all winners this week with Carlos Cuadras providing the nightcap. 4-1 in a deep week is just fine for the picks meter…Focusing on one particular outcome, the Nonito Donaire-Simpiwe Vetyeka fight ended, as predicted, in controversy. How the controversy came about couldn’t have been predicted…Here’s the deal: Donaire was probably on his way to a win. He came on great in rounds three and four, scored the big knockdown, and Vetyeka hadn’t shown yet that he had an answer. However, if the cut was bad enough to stop the fight at the start of the fifth, why wasn’t that the case the two previous rounds? The whole thing carried a big stink. Why was referee Luis Pabon consulting with a WBA official instead of the ring doctor before the start of the fifth? Why was Donaire, and not the referee, being allowed to call time during rounds to get his cut looked at (and cleaned)? When a similar thing once happened to James Toney against Tim Little, he sure as hell didn’t call for the doctor himself repeatedly. Does anyone think, without the knockdown in round four, that the fight would have been halted there? This looked too much like the old ‘send the house fighter to the cards before this thing gets interesting’ move to be easily dismissed. Donaire says he’ll do a rematch. Good for him. This fight, if the cut was going to stop it, should have been halted as a technical draw on any of the number of occasions where it could have earlier or it should have gone on into round five. The sport deserves better than these sorts of grey clouds…It would have been nice if HBO had commented on any of this.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]