Tuesday 26 September 2017

Calzaghe sides with Groves in Wembley war

Carl Froch (left) and George Groves go head to head during the official weigh-in at Wembley Arena ahead of their fight tonight
Carl Froch (left) and George Groves go head to head during the official weigh-in at Wembley Arena ahead of their fight tonight

Gareth A Davies

In a battle of will and resilience over technique and speed, champion Carl Froch and challenger George Groves will rely heavily on the advice of their cornermen at their super-middleweight showdown at Wembley Stadium tonight in front of 80,000 spectators.

Yesterday's weigh-in brought the big hitters – Naseem Hamed and intriguingly the WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne, with David Haye, were present. And at the rules meeting, Groves' team stipulated they wanted strict refereeing.

To add further spice to the occasion, there was also a dispute at the rules meeting, lasting more than an hour over gloves, which was later resolved.

Coolness under pressure and clarity may well be the key to victory in those all-important 60 seconds between rounds. Froch was quick this week to point out the importance of his long-time trainer Rob McCracken.

"Rob has boxed at every level, amateur and professional," said Froch. "And as a professional he fought for a world title. So to have somebody like Rob in my corner, in the build-up to this fight, gives me so much confidence and belief."

There is little doubt that McCracken is a cool, calm, deeply knowledgeable presence.

"I've been with him since day one. George has tried the mind games and he's recently changed trainers.

"I don't know where his confidence comes from in terms of his corner because he talks about how he does it on his own and he just needs someone to carry his water. That's not a good sign," added Froch.

"His coach boxed, and I give anyone who has boxed respect for getting in the ring, but he has a 5-0 record. Five fights, five losses, three by the way of big knockout. I don't think that's an ideal scenario."

There is one theory that Groves could have had clearer instructions, as Froch began to attack in bursts from round seven onwards in the first encounter six months ago in Manchester. Yet Groves and trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick believe they have the champion's number.

"I think they're speaking naively when they say that in the first fight we saw the best George and the worst Carl," said Fitzpatrick'. "They're really underestimating the ability of George Groves if they think that was the best of him.

CONTROL

"When you look at Froch's physical preparation, it is something he is able to control and oversee himself.

"He knows what his best times are and he knows what works best for him. He wouldn't have fallen short on those things," added Fitzpatrick.

"But when it comes to the technical side, he's deficient. His footwork is terrible. His hands are bad. And mentally, to perform to the best of his ability, he requires support and assurance. He is, I believe, a very insecure individual. Yes, he's a very ballsy individual and he'll scrap until the wheels fall off, but that isn't confidence, that's balls. His problem this time is that I truly believe the wheels are going to fall off.

"He is, by nature, slower than George Groves. He said on 'Ringside' he's increased that speed and touch. But so has George, who will always be quicker and more powerful than him."

Joe Calzaghe, the undefeated former world super-middleweight champion cannot see a clear winner, but he leans towards the young pretender. "You can make a case for both fighters," the Welshman said. "Has Froch got old? Is he slowing? Can Groves improve from his last performance? There is a blueprint to beat Froch. He's heavy-legged and he's quite slow.

"He's also 37. I think Groves just has to do what he did the first time. But can Froch get any worse and can Groves get any better?

"I'd never bet on a fight if I think it's a close fight, but personally I'd edge towards Groves," Calzaghe said.

"He's the younger fighter and he did dish out a beating in the first fight. It then got stopped controversially. At 37 (in July), what's left in the tank for Froch?

"And can he adapt to that style? He's never been able to adapt to someone with good leg movement and speed. Both fighters have a lot to prove. I'm really interested in seeing what happens."

An unshakeable will, incredible conditioning and a granite chin have taken the champion to the top. And Froch has enduringly held on. Can he do it once more, on the biggest stage of his career? (© Daily Telegraph, London)

FROCH V GROVES,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS BOX OFFICE, FROM 7.0

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport