By Shaun Brown
Before their first bout in November you wouldn’t have been alone in picking IBF and WBA World Super Middleweight champion Carl Froch to beat George Groves and comprehensively so. The gulf in class was evident on paper and only those closest to the challenger really knew what he was going to do on the night.
For eight rounds Groves met Froch in the centre in the ring, had the better of the exchanges, landed the cleaner shots and had already put his man down in the first round. The boxing world already knows what happened in the ninth. Injustice, robbery, controversy were just a few of the kinder words floating around the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester after referee, Howard Foster, ended the contest in the ninth round deciding that Groves was in no position to continue.
Six months on and the two fighters have some ‘Unfinished Business’ to attend to on Sat night in front of an 80,000 record crowd at Wembley Stadium in London. Their rematch has split fans and experts alike. This time it’s too close to call. Will Froch start better? Will Groves really go for a Hagler-Hearns style war? Can Froch withstand as much punishment this time? Can Groves really go 12 rounds with someone as relentless as Froch?
BoxingScene got together a dozen boxing personalities from around the U.K to get their pick and their reasons why.
Martin Murray – World Middleweight Contender
“I’m going with Froch this time round. I think he overlooked him last time and didn’t give Groves the respect he deserved. He couldn’t have had a worse start, got dropped heavy yet still come out on top. And even though it was stopped early he was getting stronger as the fight progressed. I think he’s more focused this time and won’t make as many mistakes so I’m going with Froch inside the 12 rounds.
Barry McGuigan – Former WBA Featherweight Champion
“It's a tough fight to pick a winner. Froch can win with intelligent pressure behind a snappy jab and a tight defence especially in the early rounds. Then he can start to open up as the fight develops.
Groves can also win by keeping things long, again behind his jab and using his greater speed to beat Carl to the punch but he must stay disciplined and not get drawn into the trenches. Because there is so much genuine ill will between these guys combined with George's lack of top flight experience, it will be virtually impossible for him not get drawn into a tear up at some stage. Froch late stoppage circa 8/9 round.”
Lee Beard – Trainer
“I thought Groves would win the first fight by points or late stoppage. I feel the same way now. I thought Groves, after being dominant in the first few rounds, stood in front of Froch too much looking for a KO. Groves has the speed and better movement and I think his power will trouble Froch again. But this time I think he will stay more disciplined on the outside and box more.”
Arnie Farnell – Trainer
“I think Groves. Groves is very clever, younger and fresher. Froch is a very, very, very tough man but there’s only so many times you can go to the well. I think the skill and power lies with Groves. He knows how to counter Froch. He knows how to get under his skin. I think it’s down to whether Groves can hold it together in a massive arena like that. I’m saying Groves’ stoppage late on.
Peter Fury – Trainer
“It’s very difficult and I’ll give you two scenarios: Groves is a very good boxer, he needs to go on the back foot, box and give Froch plenty of movement. Froch can get caught coming in and being desperate. That’s the best way for Groves to beat Froch. He’s gotta stay composed and stick to his game plan. I see possibly a points win or late stoppage for Groves. For Froch, let’s not forget he didn’t really rate Groves first time around. He looked at him like he was a kid, like it was an insult that he was challenging for his crown. He never took it seriously and he let Groves under his skin. With the shock that Groves presented he still managed to rally on and get the win. Regardless of the ref, Groves was hurt. Froch knows what he’s facing. The element of surprise is gone. He’s got the bit between his teeth and we all know he’s trained like a lunatic. On sheer experience and being a top level you’ve got to pick Froch by stoppage in mid to late rounds. Although I’d like Groves to win I see Froch doing the job.”
Alex Arthur – Former WBO Super Featherweight champion
“I think Groves is still under Froch’s skin. I think he annoys the life out of him. I think Carl’s a wee bit more focused this time. I do think George has his number, reason being is the first 7-8 rounds of the first fight. What George has to take into the ring with him this time is a back-up plan. I think they tried to get Froch out there before six or eight round. The reason I believe he can win this time is he’s got the experience of the first fight under his belt. I believe he did a brilliant job and can do a good job again. I fancy Groves to steal a points’ decision.”
Herol Graham – Former British Middleweight champion
“I find it quite even because of the last fight. Now Froch is going to come out to end it and finish it all. But if Groves moves around, keeps it long I think he can pull it off. I think it’ll be a tactical fight. I feel Froch is going to go out to stop him because he has something to prove. Groves is an in and out fighter. It’s like me fighting them in a sense. It’ll be cat in a mouse for a while then they’ll throw bombs later on. I think I’ll go Froch just because of the punching power and it’ll be a stoppage within ten.”
Barry Jones - Boxnation pundit and former WBO Super Featherweight champion
“I’m still going for Froch like I did in the first fight. I think it will be very similar to the last. I think George will start fast like he did in the first fight. I’ve just got a feeling that Carl will start a little bit faster, a little bit sharper and catch up with him around the same sort of time as the first fight. I’m not as confident as I was in the first fight, I thought that was going to be a bit of mismatch. It was anything but and George was winning the fight hands down. Another reason I think Carl will win is I don’t think George will put in another stellar performance so soon after the last. I really wouldn’t be surprised if it went either way to be honest. I still think Froch will find a way.”
Dennis Hobson – Promoter
“I think they both should be paying Howard Foster a good whack out of the purse for making this controversial! If it had come to a natural conclusion like it should’ve done it wouldn’t be the big fight that it is. It’s caught the imagination because of the controversy. I think Froch has been on borrowed time to be honest. He hasn’t fought a live opponent for a while. Kessler was past his best, Ward schooled him, Dirrell beat him but didn’t get the decision and Taylor ran out of gas. I do admire Froch because he’s an absolute warrior. I think Groves could have his number. I think his hand speed is too much for Froch. I pick Groves as long as he don’t get too over confident. Even though Carl is such a tough guy I think Groves can beat him by late stoppage.”
Paul Butler – IBF Bantamweight title challenger
“I think George Groves. Once bitten, twice shy. He won’t stand there and engage with him like last time. He tried to be macho and prove that he wasn’t fragile the way people made out and after what Kenny Anderson did to him. He’ll box him in little bursts and I think he’ll give him a boxing lesson. I think he’ll start off slower than last time and I think he’ll win a wide points decision. I don’t think he’ll let Carl in the fight. I think George does everything slightly better.”
Bob Shannon – Trainer
“I think we all agree it’s a great fight and a 50-50 fight but in my opinion I think it’s gonna go down to tactics. If Groves keeps him at long range and keeps him coming in he’ll win convincingly on points. If he doesn’t and gets drawn into a fight with Froch then I think Froch will win. It’s that close. I just think Froch has so much experience and he knows how dangerous Groves is now. Groves has impressed me. He’s quick, he knows he’s got the beating of him. Will he stick to his gameplan over 12 rounds with Froch? I’m not so sure. And for that reason I’m gonna go for Froch. Froch is so tough, rugged and I think he’ll draw him into a fight and that’ll be his downfall. I think Froch will get him in the trenches immediately, get him out his comfort zone and I think he’ll take him out in the first six rounds.”
Glyn Leach – Editor – Boxing Monthly magazine
“Carl Froch around the sixth or seventh round. Much more of a firefight this time. Not sure if Groves has 12 rounds in him and I think he knows that. I think that’s why there’s been all this Hagler-Hearns talk over six rounds. I’m expecting Groves to come out with intelligent pressure and doing meaningful damage more so than last time. And I don’t think it’s going to work, I think Froch will come through that. I can see Groves leaving himself open as he tires. I think the weight is hurting him much more this time. He’s still young, he’s still a growing fighter. It’s a wide open fight with all manner of possibilities but I can’t see Groves winning on points, I can’t see Groves winning late. I think his best chance is to capitalise on early success like last time and it didn’t work. I don’t think he took enough out of Carl in that fight to make it work in this fight.”
Poll Result: Carl Froch 7-5 George Groves
Please send news and views to [email protected] or @shaun_brown on Twitter.