Saturday, 31 May 2014

LIVE Froch v Groves 2: follow the fight

Boxiana will be tweeting live updates from the Froch v Groves bill at Wembley stadium on Saturday night from around 6pm.
For all the news and updates follow @boxianajournal

Froch Groves fever: total coverage

Well, the talking and pre-fight psychological jousting are now over and it's almost time for the big fight.

Thank you to everyone who has visited the Boxiana blog in its first week online to check out our coverage of the fight this week - stats show we've had visitors from all around the world - from the USA to the UK, from Kuwait to Greece, and many more besides.

Here's a handy summary of the links to all our pre-fight coverage, and don't forget that Boxiana will be tweeting from the fight itself at Wembley on Saturday night from around 6pm BST. Just visit @boxianajournal for all the tweets and updates, while post-fight coverage and thoughts will appear on Sunday.

Froch Groves fever: Random thoughts

Froch Groves fever: the first bout revisited - rounds 1-5
Froch Groves fever: the first bout revisited - rounds 6-9
Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder - part 1
Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder - part 2
Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder - part 3
Froch Groves fever: stadium night fights: Bruno v Witherspoon
Froch Groves fever: stadium night fights: Eubank v Watson 2
Froch Groves fever: stadium night fights: Hamed v Robinson
Froch Groves fever: final thoughts

Finally, these three video links are all worth visiting to get you in the mood for fight night - the final press conference, the weigh-in and a cracking promotional video for the fight.

Luke G. Williams

Friday, 30 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: final thoughts

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned..."

W.B. Yeats

There will come a moment on Saturday evening when, for Carl Froch and George Groves, everything exterior dissolves. The pre-fight hype, the 80,000 screaming fans, the hordes of photographers and fight writers, even their respective trainers and seconds ... all the ephemera connected with the biggest domestic fight of the post-war period will cease to matter and, to all intents and purposes, cease to exist.

At that moment, when the two combatants are stripped of the cloaks of hype and kiddology that have enveloped and encased them for months, all that is left will be two men and their reserves of courage, power and mental strength. Then - at last - either gradually, or perhaps quicker than either Froch or Groves may dare hope or fear, we will discover the truth.

We will discover what reserves of courage, stamina and will-power remain in the remarkable fighting frame of Carl Froch, after a long, glorious and uncompromising career. We will also discover whether the skill, courage and fortitude that George Groves showed in the first contest are qualities he possesses in abundance, or were merely a flattering illusion engendered by a dangerous sense of complacency on Froch's part.

At the point when the fight finally ends, the anarchy and chaos of combat will have given way to the cold truth of resolution. For one man this truth will represent vindication, triumph and glory. For the other? Their world will have fallen apart, and all that will exist will be a morass of bitterness, failure and regret.

Sifting through the tsunami of newsprint, videos, interviews and speculations surrounding the Froch-Groves fight is a Herculean task, which eventually becomes self defeating. For the past weeks I have pondered the possible outcome of the fight, all the while oscillating from one conclusion to another - and back again, and round again, in a cycle of indecision and indecisiveness. Groves looked so damn good in the opening rounds of the first fight - so quick, so sharp, so ruthless - that part of me believes that if he fights like that again, and has the single-mindedness to avoid open warfare, he simply cannot lose. This theory is predicated on Groves' advantage of youth and superiorities of speed of hand and foot which Froch quite simply cannot physically overcome, no matter how hard or intensely he has trained.

At other times, though, I remind myself that on the best night of his career so far, Groves could not resist the temptation to be drawn into the trenches, the environment in which Froch thrives. I also remind myself that Groves couldn't keep Froch on the canvas despite landing a perfect punch in the opening round, when an opponent is invariably at their most vulnerable, both mentally and physically. Even when Froch's eyes were glassy and his legs rubbery, he refused to accept the almost certain reality of defeat and kept on fighting, willingly entering a realm where the sane or the sensible would never dare wander. How on earth can you bet against a warrior like that?

It is a rare fight indeed where you can construct an equally convincing and detailed case for virtually every possible outcome, but this is one of those precious and wonderful fights - Froch on points, Froch by KO, Groves on points, Groves by KO, disqualification for either man, even the frustrating stalemate of a draw are all outcomes my intellect can countenance.

In the final hours before the opening bell rings, seasoned observers, fight writers and bookmakers seem to be slightly leaning towards Froch while, with a metaphorical gun to my head, I would be forced to admit a slender but barely discernible bias towards the idea of a Groves victory.

Soon it won't matter though, because soon we will know - after 36 minutes or less of beautiful and brutal fistic combat on a wondrous Wembley night the likes of which we have never seen before and may never see again, the truth will finally be laid bare.

Luke G. Williams

Froch Groves fever: stadium night fights: Hamed v Robinson

With Saturday's huge stadium fight between Carl Froch and George Groves fast approaching, I've been nostalgically re-watching some of my favourite 'stadium fights' and sharing my memories of the nights and fights in question. In the final entry in this series I examine Prince Naseem Hamed's visit to Cardiff to face Steve Robinson.

Hamed v Robinson: Cardiff Arms Park, 30 September 1995:
By September 1995 my previous number 1 fistic hero Chris Eubank had been humbled twice by Steve Collins and a new man occupied my pugilistic dreams: his name was Naseem Hamed and, to this day, I still think he's the greatest talent I've ever seen in a boxing ring.

Truth be told, by the time of the Collins loss, I had come to realise that Eubank had never and would never fight the quality of overseas opposition necessary to earn him a place on pugilism's Mount Olympus. I still had residual affection for him, but Hamed - well, Hamed was something different. With his flashy style, and formidable virtues of speed, power and elusiveness I was convinced that not only would Naz become a British boxing legend, but that he had the ability and potential to become recognised as one of the greatest boxers of all time, from any country, at any weight.

Had it not been for the considerable forces of hubris and complacency, perhaps he would have done.

Back in September 1995 though, the wasted potential, the lack of road-work, the unsavoury split with Brendan Ingle and the humbling defeat against Macro Antonio Barrera were still in the future ... because back in September 1995, Hamed was a featherweight incarnation of Muhammad Ali made flesh, with a large dose of the flashy showmanship of Hector Camacho thrown in for good (or bad) measure.

Yes, back then, before reality and his human frailties had been revealed, Naz was untouchable, unmatchable, unbeatable.

Watching this video again almost made me wish Naz had retired after this fight. So perfect is his performance and artistry here that, in retrospect, it's almost inevitable that what followed was merely anti-climactic postscript.

Luke G. Williams


Froch Groves fever: Stadium night fights: Eubank v Watson 2

With Saturday's huge stadium fight between Carl Froch and George Groves fast approaching, I've been nostalgically re-watching some of my favourite 'stadium fights' and sharing my memories of the nights and fights in question.

Click here for the previous entry in this series, which looked at Bruno v Witherspoon

Eubank v Watson 2: White Hart Lane, 21 September 1991:
This is a hard fight to talk about in a nostalgic light. One of the fiercest and most sensational fights ever seen in a British ring, it was also a contest that left one man fighting for his life and permanently disabled. The experience of watching the conclusion to this fight on live TV, and the saturated media coverage of the tragic aftermath, forced me to confront my love of boxing in the harshest possible way.

So when I think back to the night of 21 September 1991, as I often do, it is always with a mixture of awe and excitement, mediated by feelings of disgust and self-loathing.

When Eubank-Watson 2 took place back in 1991 I was just a month away from my 15th birthday and a fanatical Chris Eubank and boxing fan. The outcome of the first fight, which Eubank had 'won' on a contentious points decision, had seen him elevated in the public's mind to hate figure status. I was desperate for him to win the rematch and reassert the respect and praise he had gained in the wake of his upset victory of Nigel Benn the previous year.

I had spent the day of 21 September at a friend's house in Greenwich and we began to watch the fight together. After about three rounds my mum, with consummately poor timing, arrived to take me home. I therefore had to listen to the middle rounds on our crackly car radio, and I did so with a deepening sense of gloom and depression, as Watson knocked Eubank from pillar to post with a masterclass of aggressively paced boxing and punching.

By the time I got home just three rounds of the fight were left; Eubank had been totally out-fought and appeared on his way to a heavy and humiliating points defeat. When Watson knocked him down in the 11th, I fell to the floor in despair, howled with frustration and crumpled myself into a foetal position.

It was now a certainty in my mind that my hero Eubank had been vanquished.

The only hope I still harboured was that Chris would somehow regain his footing and not be knocked out. At least then he would have something to cling to, some sense of pride in the fact that he had been defeated but not destroyed. Beaten up but not knocked cold...

The next few seconds appeared to happen in slow motion ... Eubank arose, cocked his right hand and somehow knocked Watson down with a staggering uppercut.

Suddenly, I was hysterical with excitement.

I leapt from my previously prone position ...

I swung punches at the imaginary Watson in my living room ...

I screamed for Chris to finish him. Destroy him. Kill him. A figure of speech perhaps, but one that still makes me retch.

Watson never recovered from the effects of that uppercut and my desire for a Eubank victory was soon sated.

The ultimate fantasy of most boxing fans to witness a sensational 'come from behind' triumph had also been satisfied, but the human cost, as we all now know, was immense and incalculable.

It wasn't the first time or last time in boxing that there would be fatality or near fatality, but for my 14-year-old self this was the fight that really awoke my conscience to the true nature and possibly terminal consequences of any boxing match.

I've never watched a boxing match since without thinking of Eubank-Watson 2.

And I still don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

Luke G. Williams

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder Part 3

This week, as part of the build-up to the Froch-Groves rematch I've been looking at the psychological issues surrounding the fight with renowned sports psychology consultant Sean Ryder in a special three-part series. (You can read part one of this discussion here and part two here

Today, in the final part of this series, Sean takes a closer look at the role of the two trainers involved in the fight as well as the profile of sports psychology in the wider sporting world.

The men in the corner:
Froch's trainer, Rob McCracken, and Groves' trainer, Paddy Fitzpatrick are intriguing figures in their own right. McCracken, a former middleweight World Championship challenger, was head coach of the successful British boxing team at the 2012 Olympics and has had a longstanding, and highly successful, working relationship with Froch. Irishman Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, linked up with Groves shortly before the first fight against Froch after George's unexpected split from Adam Booth. Since landing the Groves gig, Fitzpatrick has seen his profile soar and he recently attracted headlines by claiming that McCracken has been "lying" to Froch. What, then, does Sean make of the men in the corners, their roles and their influence?

Sean Ryder's view: "The roles of Paddy Fitzpatrick and Rob McCracken are absolutely vital. because it's all about executing a game-plan. The trouble you're going to have with these two guys is, given the opportunity, they're just going to have a fight, as opposed to a boxing match, and then the outcome becomes 50-50, a coin flip! So what's going to be crucial is which trainer can keep their fighter under control. I've got quite a strong feeling that if George had had Adam Booth in the corner for the first fight he would have really insisted that George didn't get into so much of a brawl from rounds 7 and 8 onwards. That isn't any sort of sleight on Paddy Fitzpatrick. After all they hadn't had much time together, and he may well have been telling George the same thing, but they didn't have that depth of relationship so that when George was under pressure and exhausted he could take that on board. It's a really interesting question as to whether Adam Booth would have been able to keep George focused on what was working for him tactically early in that fight.

"I think Paddy Fitzpatrick talks really well, he talks really interestingly, but I think he talks badly about the psychology of Froch and Groves. I read an article online where he said about Carl's use of a sports psychologist, 'he's a doctor, don't forget, he's a doctor', implying that you need to open yourself up to help yourself through. Now that might be right from a clinical psychology perspective, but it's certainly not right from a sports psychology perspective. It felt like a misunderstanding of the value Carl was getting from working with a psychologist.

"It's also interesting when [Fitzpatrick] was saying that Rob McCracken wouldn't be able to tell Carl the truth about the first fight: that George had out jabbed him, that he was faster, more powerful, had better footwork. The thing is, I think McCracken could say those things when they reviewed the fight. They know the things they did badly, and they know what they can change. I can see from Paddy Fitzpatrick's point of view that he's trying to say there are too many things for Carl to change, but I think that's over-egging it a little bit."

Executing the game-plan: 
Amid the heat of the emotion of performing in front of 80,000 rabid fans at Wembley, the boxer who keeps his tactical cool on Saturday night is the one who will emerge victorious. As our discussion entered its final stages, Sean addressed the importance for both fighters of sticking to a game-plan.

Sean Ryder's view: "If you look at the knockdown in the first fight in the first round, that had such an effect for the next four or five rounds. Carl's footwork was shocking for the knockdown - he basically threw that right hand and brought his right leg through so he was absolutely square on to take that right hand flush, and that's because he thought that George couldn't hurt him. This time, I expect Carl to start very similarly to the Kessler rematch, with a much stiffer jab, much better movement, and not trying to throw the right hand quite so much. So I guess it will be a case of whether McCracken can develop a game-plan so that Carl does that for a while, so George doesn't get a lead, and then Carl can try and come on strong as he did in the first fight. For George it's whether Paddy Fitzpatrick can get George to win lots of the opening rounds but then stay on the outside, win a couple more rounds in the second half of the fight and take it on points. That's the other  part of the psychology, it's all very well trying to win the head-to-heads before the fight and out of the ring, but when you get in there it's all about the psychology of executing your game plan. It's all about whether Paddy will be able to keep George in that game plan in rounds 8, 9 and 10 when the exhaustion starts to kick in. So, I think this fight is genuinely going to come down to who can translate their ability into a performance - the best sort of boxing match!"

Sports psychology on the rise:
To conclude our discussion, I asked Sean for his thoughts on the rise of sports psychology, and its increased level of acceptance and credibility within boxing, as well as other sports. Here's what he had to say ...

Sean Ryder's view: "Any time when we have a boxer at a high level saying, I work with sports psychology, that can only be good for the industry as a whole, because what it then does, is it encourages people to speak to people like me and get the truth about how we support performance. I'm not a clinical psychologist, so if someone has got depression or mental illness, I'm not the man for them, although I can help them speak to a clinical psychologist of course. I'm very much performance psychology based - so I'm looking at motivation, concentration, managing pressure, those sort of things, as well as how the brain works under the pressure of sport and how you can control yourself to execute your game plan. So I think we're getting a lot more of a profile across a whole range of sports. Most sports people have such a high degree of pressure on them these days, so why wouldn't they work with someone who has that expertise in developing mental strength?"

Thanks to Sean Ryder for taking the time to speak to Boxiana. You can follow Sean on Twitter@SeanRyderDYA. His website is
Luke G. Williams

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: Stadium night fights: Bruno v Witherspoon

With Saturday's huge stadium fight between Carl Froch and George Groves fast approaching, I've been nostalgically re-watching some of my favourite 'stadium fights'. Over the next few days I'll be posting links to these, as well as a selection of brief thoughts and memories of the nights in question.

Bruno-Witherspoon: Wembley stadium, 19 July 1986:
I was only nine at the time, but I vividly remember the frenzied build-up to this fight. Like many Brits I was enamoured with Frank Bruno and his beguiling mixture of charm, humour and frightening punching power. I wasn't allowed to stay up and watch the fight, which was in the wee hours (for the benefits of US TV if I recall correctly), but I did get to discuss it at the dinner table with my parents and some of their friends who were visiting. I remember a couple of them were quite horrified that I was taking an interest in a 'blood sport' such as boxing. That was 1980s middle class Britain for you.

When I woke up the next day I didn't have the patience to wait for the replay to be televised, and instead asked my dad what the result had been. When he told me Tim had won in the 11th I was crestfallen. I watched the fight anyway, praying he'd somehow got it wrong.

He hadn't of course.

What the fight proved, once again and not for the last time, was that, for all his power, Bruno was always going to be vulnerable against a puncher who was able to take him past the midway point of a fight. Nevertheless, Bruno would eventually achieve his title dream, of course, in September 1995 against Oliver McCall - a wonderful moment of vindication for a wonderful man.

The video of the Witherspoon-Bruno contest below also features some cracking pre-fight footage, including a wonderful film by the peerless and much-missed Harry Carpenter (which starts around 9:26) looking at Bruno's career up to that point, as well some of the previous attempts by British pugilists to achieve what he charmingly refers to as "that impossible dream: a British World Heavyweight champion". Just hearing Harry's voice again choked me up a little...

Luke G. Williams

Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first part of a discussion of the Froch-Groves rematch between myself and renowned sports psychology consultant Sean Ryder. (You can read the article here if you haven't seen it already).

Today I present the second part of this three-part series, as Sean takes a closer look at George's use of mantras and Carl's use of a sports psychologist, as well as that handshake on Sky Sports' ''The Gloves Are Off' programme. The third and final instalment will be published tomorrow.

'Everything for a reason':
In his preparation for the rematch, Groves has utilised a variety of mantras and psychology-laden hashtags on his Twitter page, ranging from 'Everything for a reason' to 'mandated' and 'the number 6'. What does Sean make of this tactic and what is the psychology behind it?

Sean Ryder's view: "The thing with mantras is that they're often a technique used to maintain control. I don't know George very well, but if you look at him as a character, he hasn't had a promotional team for a long time. Although he's now signed with the Sauerlands, he's not had a manager, he's often fought on opposition bills as the 'away fighter', he split from Adam Booth very close to the first fight. So he's someone who very much wants to be in control and when you have a mantra that you're consistently repeating, it enables you to complete that control. It also acts as a bit of an impenetrable shield if you like. If you're consistently repeating a mantra, anything your opponent says can just be deflected by the mantra; for example, whatever Carl says he can just respond with 'everything for a reason'. So when Carl gave him a tough time about going to the IBF to get a mandatory position again, well George can just deflect all of that by saying: 'everything for a reason', and saying that the reason will become clear on fight night. It was interesting on the Sky TV 'The Gloves Are Off' programme, when Carl was trying to push George for a little bit more depth about what these things mean, and George refused to do it. The point being, as long as you refuse to say, it can mean whatever you want! If you think about it, when George said last time that he was going to hit Carl with two right hands in the centre of the ring, that all sounds very good, but the chances are, most boxers will try and catch their opponent with a right hand or two right hands in the first round. Even if it had been a quiet opening round, George could quite conceivably have landed two right hands in the first round. So saying that is really all about dominance and trying to show he's in control, which is really important to George."

Froch and sports psychology:
Froch's decision to employ a sports psychologist in the build-up to the rematch has attracted plenty of attention. Groves himself has claimed it is a sign of weakness. Froch himself explained: "There are questions to be answered about why I let Groves get inside my head [last time]. I am so annoyed with myself for letting it happen because I studied sports psychology as part of my sports science degree at uni. He did a good job on me because when I got into the ring after listening to his rubbish, all I wanted to do was punch his face in instead of boxing him. I'm not going to let it happen again." What is Sean's take on Carl's decision?

Sean Ryder's view: "I think Carl has been smart and using a sports psychologist has really helped him because it has allowed him to get a different perspective. He has a better understanding of what George is trying to do this time, and if you know that it can really limit the effect that it can have. Carl seems really relaxed with it. I've worked with a few boxers and one of their biggest fears is often: 'what do I say if the opponent says I'm weak because I'm working with you?' That's a common feeling that I get not only from boxers but from other professional sportsmen. But for me it's very simple: if I'm working on my mental strength, with a psychologist or a mental performance coach, then nobody can tell me that I'm weak, because that means they're not working on it! So you can turn around this idea of 'you're weak, you're working with a psychologist', and say: 'well, psychology is vital at the elite level of sport, and I'm working to make my mental strength stronger, and you're not!' So that's an advantage for Carl. But he has to believe it, and that belief comes from getting value out of working with a sport psychologist. I think Carl can already see that his approach for this fight is infinitely better than last time, and some of that can therefore be attributed to his work with the psychologist. There's four areas to elite performance: the physical side, putting in the hours, putting in the graft; there's the technical side, working on the pads and the bags and taking that into sparring; the tactical side, what's the game plan you're going to put together, and then there's the mental side - namely, mentally are you in a good place to execute the game plan in the fight? If you're not working on the mental side then you're leaving it to chance. These guys, with 80,000 watching at Wembley, can't afford to neglect that. So it's a real advantage to Carl that he is preparing in this way, rather than leaving it to chance."

The handshake: 'pull and push a little':
Sky Sports' eagerly awaited 'face-to-face' show between Froch and Groves entitled 'The Gloves Are Off' aired at the weekend, and made for fascinating viewing. Groves' attempt to yank Froch's hand during the handshake at the end was but one flashpoint in a typically psychologically charged encounter. Was this the moment that the mental pendulum swung in Carl's favour?

Sean Ryder's view: "The handshake is something that didn't look pre-planned from George. I think we need to take a step back and look at how the whole programme had gone. I think it was probably the first time that George felt he wasn't getting the better of Carl in the verbal exchanges. That seems to get more and more obvious to George as the programme went on, and I wonder consequently if the handshake  was a result of George thinking: I've got to do something to take back the power.' It was all a bit silly - Carl was in quite a good place, pulled George back and made more of an impact and then sat back and looked very calm and in control."

Part 3 of this article will appear tomorrow, in which we will examine the roles of trainers Rob McCracken and Paddy Fitzpatrick and the perception and profile of sports psychology in sport as a whole.

Thanks to Sean Ryder for taking the time to speak to Boxiana. You can follow Sean on Twitter@SeanRyderDYA. His website is
Luke G. Williams

Follow @boxianajournal

Froch Groves fever: talking psychology with Sean Ryder Part 1

"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."
Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese military general

Sun Tzu, author of the legendary Art of War, would heartily approve of George Groves' propensity for psychological warfare. The enigmatic Hammersmith super-middleweight has been engaged in an intense psychological battle with Carl Froch ever since their first fight was announced last year, and in the build-up to Saturday's eagerly awaited rematch at Wembley stadium he has unleashed an arsenal of psychological gambits which adhere to Tzu's emphasis on the 'subtle' and the 'mysterious'. Meanwhile, in an admission of how mentally unprepared he was last time around, Froch has himself engaged the services of a sports psychologist to help him prepare for the rematch.

Suddenly, the biggest prize-fight of the year is a contest steeped in psychology - adding a fascinatingly cerebral dimension to what is already a mouthwatering physical confrontation.

On Tuesday I spoke to renowned sports psychology consultant Sean Ryder, who has worked with boxers, footballers and figures from the world of business among many others. Sean was kind enough to share with me his perceptions of the Froch-Groves psychological battle, his views on Groves' intriguing pre-fight gambits and his assessment of some of the psychological flash-points that have occurred in the build-up to the second fight thus far.

I've categorised and summarised the first section of our in-depth discussion under the headings below - with Sean being the expert, you'll notice that I understandably give far more time to his views and analysis than mine! And I think you'll agree that his insights make for fascinating reading.

Assessing the first fight:
There's no doubt in my mind that George's' 'disrespect' towards Carl ahead of the first fight, and his general bossing of their psychological exchanges, had a significant effect on the way the fight unfolded, with Groves performing well above expectations, and Froch looking distinctly below par. What, though, did Sean make of my theory?

Sean Ryder's view: "I think you could argue that. In fact, Carl has admitted that mentally he wasn't prepared for the first fight and that George got under his skin. What was interesting was that George definitely had a plan. He definitely knew what he was going to do every time they met; he knew what he was going to say, he knew the messages he wanted to get across. When you have any sort of face-to-face meeting [as a boxer] you have to think about the two effects that anything you say will potentially have: the first is, what effect will it have on myself? Is it going to make me feel more confident? Is it going to make me feel more sure in my ability? And then there's what effect it can have on your opponent. I think George judged it brilliantly before the first fight because everything he was saying was adding to his own levels of belief and his own levels of control. For example by saying, 'I'm going to take the centre of the ring, I'm going to hit him with two right hands in the first round', he was creating that certainty in his own mind and I think George benefited from that. By the same token, though, George felt those comments would have a negative effect on Carl."

Assessing the psychological balance of the rematch:
It seems that Froch is taking the challenge of Groves more seriously this time. Indeed, in an apparent admission that Groves had the psychological edge fathead of their first contest, Carl has even been visiting a sports psychologist in the build-up to the rematch. So how does the psychological balance of the rematch compare to the first fight?

Sean Ryder's view: "It's a really nice contrast this time around; George isn't really doing anything too differently, but you'll see that the effect of what he does on Carl has been very different. That's why it's quite dangerous if you're constantly trying to do something to upset your opponent; quite simply, you can't completely control how your opponent will react. This time around I think Carl has a better understudying of what George is trying to do, and if you know what someone's trying to do, it can really limit the effect it can have."

George and the Rubik's cube:
When Froch spoke at the opening press conference for the rematch, Groves put his energy into solving a Rubik's cube instead. He looked quite good at it too, an impression later confirmed when he clocked an impressive 2 minutes 21 in solving the multicoloured riddle for the Sky TV cameras. But what on earth was the hidden meaning behind all of this?

Sean Ryder's view: "I thought the Rubik's Cube was really interesting! The point about the Rubik's Cube is that it could be perceived in a whole host of different ways, all of them positive for George and negative for Carl. For example, George could be hoping that Carl would get irritated by a perceived lack of respect. i.e. 'I'm the champ, I'm talking, how dare he not listen!' Or George could have been looking for Carl to interpret it as a reflection of the fact that George is an intelligent man, a smart man, who can stick to a game plan and develop a game plan; that he's a bright and intelligent boxer who's smarter than Carl. Or from George's perspective it may well be that he just didn't care what Carl had to say! If you listen to what George has often said, he says that Carl 'just can't beat him', he says he's quicker than Carl, has better footwork, is harder than him - so perhaps the Rubik's Cube is just a reinforcement of the fact that what Carl has to say is an irrelevance to him when it comes to the fight. Whether that's true or not we'll see on Saturday!"

When push comes to shove:
Froch had kept his nerve, and temper, throughout the first press conference, until he decided to shove Groves while they posed for photographers on the Wembley pitch. Was this a flashpoint that revealed a potentially fatal weakness in keeping a lid on his emotions?

Sean Ryder's view: "From the outside it looked like Carl had a plan going into that day; he was going to remain calm, he was going to keep it together and be very controlled. Obviously the longer that goes on the more difficult it is to maintain that control. When you get to a certain stage, there's always the risk that Carl thinks: 'I've had enough of this, it's all an act, I'm going to let the real me out'. That could be what the push represented. But having said that, and I've looked at the footage a few times, Carl is so controlled with that push, that you can easily speculate that he'd planned to do it. Often if you push somebody, you meet their eyes really quickly to judge their reaction. I mean there was a chance that George might have punched him in the face! But Carl refused to be in his gaze. Whether that was controlled or not it's very difficult to say. I'm sure he planned to look face forward and keep looking forward and not look at George. But what he might not have thought about is that he was leaving his ear open for George to say whatever he wants, and they were there for quite a long time before the shove happened! So it could also have been Carl's way of saying, enough of this, and snapping... in a controlled way!

It's also interesting to look at what happened immediately afterwards, and look at George's response... he, well, I wouldn't say he was rattled, that's too strong a word, but he suddenly seemed incapable of responding. He would have been tempted to get engaged in some sort of physical altercation, but he knew he couldn't. So there was definitely an element, I think, that George was taken aback by what he perceived as Carl's unprofessional behaviour. I don't think he was expecting to be pushed at all."

Part 2 of this article will appear later this week, in which we will examine Groves' various mantras, Froch's use of a sports psychologist and much more besides!

Thanks to Sean Ryder for taking the time to speak to Boxiana. You can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanRyderDYA. His website is

Luke G. Williams
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