By Nick Halling
The horse trading and mind games surrounding next weekend’s Froch-Groves rematch looks set to continue almost right up to the first bell on 31 May. Groves, of course, got this particular ball rolling when he objected not only to referee Howard Foster, but also campaigned successfully to have neutral officials installed throughout. As a result there will be no British presence either in the ring, or on the judging panel.
But exactly who will be deemed acceptable to both parties is threatening to descend into the kind of jury selection process normally associated with high profile American legal trials.
In a tit-for-tat move, Froch’s promoter, Matchroom, objected to the IBF’s selection of referee Jack Reiss, so an alternative third man in the ring is being sought, amidst much eyebrow raising and shoulder shrugging in the IBF’s New Jersey headquarters.
Most bizarre of all, however, is an objection from Groves to the presence of Poland’s Leszek Jankowiak on the list of judges. The concern would appear to stem from Jankowiak’s nationality. He is Polish. Froch can trace his ancestry to Poland, and he doesn’t have to go back too far. His grandfather relocated during World War II, and he still has relatives in the country. The suggestion from Groves, presumably, must be that the judge will have some sort of subliminal allegiance to Froch based on a shared ancestry.
It remains to be seen whether the Groves camp get their way regarding the selection of this particular judge, but if he does, it will cost the fight one of the more reliable and shrewd officials currently in the game. Though not vastly experienced, Jankowiak worked the Golovkin-Adamu middleweight tussle on February, the Scott Quigg – Yoandris Salinas WBA super bantamweight title fight last October, and Dennis Lebedev’s WBA cruiserweight title fight against Guillermo Jones, and his cards all looked to be spot on.
Most significant of all, Jankowiak also worked the European heavyweight title fight between Robert Helenius and Dereck Chisora in December 2011. In what was widely regarded as a travesty of scoring, Helenius was awarded the fight on a split decision. Two of the judges saw it in the Finn’s favour, 115-113. The dissenting voice who voted in favour of Chisora – scoring it 115-113 to the Londoner – belonged to Jankowiak. The guy knows what he’s doing.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.