Monday 23 October 2017

Froch open to rematch as controversy rages

Carl Froch (left) in action against George Groves
Carl Froch (left) in action against George Groves

Steve Bunce

The referee accused of a controversial premature stoppage of George Groves as Carl Froch defended his two world titles has been backed by the British Boxing Board as the champion agreed to give challenger a rematch.

Howard Foster was accused of a knee-jerk reaction and caused uproar at the sold out arena in Manchester when he stepped in to shield Groves and call a halt in the ninth round of a brutal battle, which the challenger was leading.

However, British Boxing Board secretary Robert Smith insisted Foster's decision to stop the fight was vindicated. "The referee had to make the decision in a split second, he made his call, and I back him," said Smith. "He does not have the benefit of several replays on television or a monitor. He was six inches away from the fighters, he is looking at the fighter's eyes and he has the health, safety and interest of the fighter at heart."

"Howard Foster is a world-class professional. Another punch could have made a massive difference to George's career."

Foster's decision came after two right hands and a succession of punches from Froch, defending the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association super-middleweight belts, caused Groves to tuck up under pressure.

HERO

In real time, the young challenger did look in trouble, though replays showed a different story.

Groves, ahead on all three judges' cards, turned from heel to hero in that moment. The baying crowd, who had earlier booed the 25-year-old Londoner's walk to the ring, turned on Froch and cheered Groves as he saluted onlookers from each of the four corners of the ring.

Foster, meanwhile, was escorted out of the arena under a blanket of security men.

After eight rounds, Groves was ahead 76-75 on two cards and 78-73 on the third. The last score was arguably the most accurate, given that the IBF's mandatory challenger had floored the champion as the opening round drew to a close to win it 10-8.

While Groves was highly impressive, Froch's warrior mentality drew his rival into a thrilling toe-to-toe battle, the champion gaining ascendancy in the eighth and then looking even more dangerous in the closing ninth round.

Both men bore the hallmarks of a brutal war. The left side of Froch's lip was swollen, both eyes mottled purple and black with bruising, while Groves was marked around both eyes and forehead.

Groves, who almost broke down in tears in a news conference after the fight, enhanced his reputation with this performance, landing huge right hands, moving impressively, and until the sixth round, taking control of the fight.

"He was a tough, tough fighter," said Froch. "But when he started getting hit, he started to fall apart. I broke him down in seven and eight and I stopped him in round nine.

"There's a heavyweight in a coma in America right now because a fight went on too long. It's a very fine line."

"Watching it back, I can see why it could have been left a little bit longer. He wasn't robbed. I was robbed of a glorious finish – knocking him out."

"At 25 years old, do you want to see a kid knocked unconscious and carried out on a stretcher? You don't."

Groves, meanwhile, was demanding a rematch, insisting he had been a victim of "Froch's warrior reputation" and his own reputation that he was "chinny".

"I'll have Christmas with my family, probably have a holiday and then come back in the New Year, speak to Rob McCracken and Eddie Hearn and we will decide what we do moving forward," said Froch.

"There are a couple of fights yet left in this body, definitely. I still love boxing and let's not forget what the result was here."

On the rematch, Froch said: "I said to Eddie if the rematch makes sense, why not. But I don't need to have my hand forced. I'm here today, 34 fights, 32 wins, I've just defended against a young, up and coming hungry and ambitious fighter." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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