MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — Down on all three cards and having suffered a knockdown in the first round, Carl Froch gradually regrouped behind rough in-fighting, strong countering and a quick call from referee Howard Foster to score a comeback ninth-round stoppage over George Groves to retain the WBA Super and IBF 168-pound titles at the Phones 4u Arena.
Entering the ring to resounding boos, Groves quickly shocked the crowd by dropping a rushing-in Froch with a counter straight right. The champion rose on unsteady legs and took several chopping right hands before being saved by the bell. The speedy Groves continued the onslaught in the second via overhand rights that landed at will. The challenger also welcomed exchanges, landing the cleaner work but still taking enough hooks from the bruising Froch to start swelling by the end of the third.
Froch adjusted his game plan in the fifth by working off the backfoot and exploding forward with hooks to the head and body. The awkwardness of the attacks made it difficult for Groves to time coming in, causing him to resort to covering up when being pushed to the ropes. When Groves attempted to hold at ring-center, Froch made sure he paid a price by ripping rabbit punches, forearms and uppercuts.
The sixth round delivered the best two-way action of the fight. Groves dominated the first two minutes via his laser-sharp right hand, but suddenly dropped his guard in a show of bravado after catching a Froch left hook on the ropes. The fighters exchanged haymakers over the final minute with both men being stunned. However, it would be Groves who held a slight edge at the bell even after getting a ref warning for leading with his head.
The seventh marked a distinct change in the fight — Froch now began to get off first with his offense and bully Groves on the inside. The champion overcame some hard counter jabs early on to maul Groves inside. The eighth continued Froch’s momentum where he landed several hard shots to the body and a jarring right upstairs.
The deciding ninth saw Froch hurt Groves with a right hand, prompting the challenger to careen forward and attempt to hold. Froch pounced and pushed Groves to the ropes, forcing Groves to exchange and get caught with a left and right hook. The force of the blows made Groves stumble forward to ring center with his gloves up. The last blow had made Groves’ head snap at an awkward angle, prompting referee Howard Foster to jump in to angry boos from the crowd and shocking disgust from Groves, who shoved Foster away twice.
The scorecards were closer than most observers had it, with Groves leading 77-74 and 76-75 twice. After a long talk following the bell, both men put aside the bad blood of the lead-up and shook hands. Froch agreed with the stoppage while Groves claimed Froch was hurt worse in the first and given the benefit of the doubt due to his reputation. Neither man ruled out an immediate rematch.[youtube http://youtu.be/9Bhg1OsQTFg]
This was a FANTASTIC fight. The first round knockdown was breathtaking and a credit to both fighters. Froch showed his amazing resiliency and Groves displayed his elite skills. His ego got the better of him in those latter rounds where boxing at a distance would have been the much smarter strategy, but Froch’s mindset seems to draw everyone not named Andre Ward into a contest of will. I’ll be writing more later on this Fight of the Year contender (and for many, “Robbery of the Year” contender as well). For now, let’s just try to focus on the positives over the sour taste of the quick stoppage that robbed both fighters of a definitive ending.