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

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