THIS Saturday’s super middleweight world title showdown at Wembley between Carl Froch and George Groves has all the ingredients to be an all-time British sporting classic.
With a near 80,000 sell-out crowd at the national stadium, with millions more watching on pay-per-view, this is without doubt potentially the biggest contest in the history of boxing in this country.
Their previous bout in Manchester back in November ended in controversial fashion when, having knocked Froch down in the first round and then dominated him for the next five or so rounds, Groves was stopped in the ninth round by referee Howard Foster.
Having watched it on the night, then a couple of times the following morning, I can see both sides of the argument. Prior to that final round, Groves had Froch in equally as much trouble, yet the champion was given the benefit of the doubt. However, having seen the likes of Michael Watson and Gerald McClellan suffer tragedy in the ring, Foster was up far closer than any of us and saw something that gave him cause for concern.
The stoppage, whether premature or not, has brought us all to this point. The ‘what ifs’ will rage on, but there’s no doubt that if the fight had gone on and had a clear winner either way, I’m not sure that we would have nearly 80,000 descending on the capital for the rematch.
The build-up has been both complex and ultimately fascinating. Groves, the challenger, 11 years younger than the champion Froch, has kept up the mind games, but his opponent has been equal to the challenge, culminating in a TV showdown last Saturday which I personally scored as a draw.
Froch freely admits he took Groves too lightly in their last fight, and states that the best Groves couldn’t beat the worst Froch.
And, however bad Froch may feel he was last November, his pedigree cannot be doubted. His last 14 opponents can be classed as quality fighters, put that up against our very own Chris Eubank’s world title fight opponents – while he took on the likes of Benn, Calzaghe, Watson and Collins, there was also a smattering of Mexican roadsweepers and even a postman from Milwaulkee.
But, at 36, you would have to question how much Froch has left in the tank?
Could this be, as with the case of the legendary Larry Holmes and others before him in the history of boxing, one fight too many?
As for Groves, while it’s a given that he will start strong, there are also question marks over his stamina in the later rounds.
I’m very fortunate to be at Wembley this Saturday and, in my list of all-time sporting events, it’s right up there with the Albion at Wembley, a World Cup quarter-final, Ricky Hatton in Vegas and England in Australia, but how will the fight pan out?
Having had the privilege of meeting both fighters in the past, I have to say as pleasant as Froch is, I can’t help but favour Groves, because he is basically a thoroughly nice lad, and very much the underdog, almost a champion of the downtrodden.
Without wishing to fence sit, I really do think it’s a fight of two halves. Groves has the ability, heart and drive to finish Froch off within the first six rounds. But if we hear the seventh bell in North London on Saturday, I think experience will then be the major factor, along with the Groves stamina issues, and the champion will win by a late stoppage.
Whatever the outcome, I’m sure these two fighters will etch themselves in boxing history after Saturday night.