Sunday, 25 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: random thoughts

I have to say that my state of anticipation and excitement regarding this fight is already at fever pitch. In fact, is there a febrile state beyond and even more heightened than fever pitch? If so, I'm there!

This morning I watched the Sky Sports programme 'The Gloves Are Off' and the tension and intensity radiating from these men is something else. It's an entertaining 25 minutes or so, and well worth catching if you have the time. Froch seemed the more relaxed of the two, and even made Groves look uncomfortable and overly tense on a couple of occasions. 

However the suspicion remains that it might be an act, and that beneath the surface Groves irritates the hell out of Froch and the Nottingham man is only just managing to keep a lid on a sea of emotions. Certainly, Froch seems to realise that he needs to keep his emotions contained, lest he open an uncontrolled Pandora's box of frustration and irritation ... as happened at the Wembley press conference when he held himself together well, only to then let slip his internal feelings by shoving Groves. All of this psychological sparring, and Groves' own clever psychological strategy, only makes the fight even more fascinating. It's a subject, I'll be returning to later in the week.

In the meantime, a few more random thoughts and insights about the fight...

What is it about a big fight that, unlike any other sporting spectacle, can tear your nerves to shreds? The big fight is still six days away, and yet already it's obsessing most of my waking hours. A host of questions are flooding and racing through my mind 24/7: What time should I get to the stadium? What will my sight lines be like? Will there be a decent merchandise stand so I can get my friend James who lives in Germany a good souvenir? How much time will I have to waste queuing for drinks? And that's before I even get on to the fight itself!

One factor, of course, which helps determine a fan's tension levels ahead of the fight is the extent of their emotional involvement in the fight and the fighters involved. And this is a factor that's puzzling me ahead of Saturday. I respect and admire Carl Froch - I think he's a cracking, fearless fighter, and one of Britain's best ever - but I wouldn't say he's one of my favourite boxers. I don't adore him the way I adored Lewis, Hamed, Holyfield, Eubank, Foreman and many others. No real reason, just the way it is.

As for Groves, I also like him a lot. I was cheering for him versus DeGale, who I found overly obnoxious in the build-up, and was glad he edged that fight. I think he has the potential to be a future superstar, and I like the fact he's a little odd - there's a touch of the Eubank in his deliberately accentuated eccentricities. 

On balance, then, I'd rather Froch won, but if Groves wins I won't be devastated.

In which case, given that my preference for Froch is only about 60-40 ... why am I so damn nervous about this fight? Why am I finding it hard to sleep at night? And why, as I think about the fight right now, is my throat dry and my palms slightly sweaty?

Maybe it's because it's such a huge occasion for British boxing. And maybe my nervousness if a symptom of the fact I'm desperate for a conclusive outcome, rather than controversy or disappointment - I'm craving a classic fight for the ages with a decisive winner, so there's no opportunity for those tiresome "another black eye for boxing" headlines.

But I have to admit there's one other possibility too: perhaps I care more about Froch winning than I care to admit, and my nerves are an attempt to suppress the fact that I can't shake the conclusion that Groves has his number and Saturday night might be the end of the road for a great warrior.

Jeez, psychology's a funny thing.

As the fight approaches, it seems like an increasing number of former fighters are backing Groves to do the business. First we had Joe Calzaghe, and now Nigel Benn tipping Groves in this piece by Alan Hubbard in The Independent. Hubbard also mentions that DeGale believes Groves has the edge.

Although I know that ratings, particularly all-time ratings, are a thankless art, I still love them. Damn it, who can resist a parlour game which unites pretty much every fight fan worldwide?

So, I was thinking this morning about how I might rank the greatest British (Isles) super-middles of all time.

These were my conclusions...
1. Calzaghe - you can't argue with his record, even if you can argue with the level of his opposition
2. Froch - genuine warrior, fought at a consistently high level, more so than those above and below him in fact
3. Eubank - granite chinned, at his best he bested Benn, which edges him ahead of his great rival
4. Benn - total thrill merchant - flawed, but beautifully so
5. Collins - got Eubank and Benn when on the slide. Tough as nails though

To be honest, I think Froch has what it takes to overhaul Calzaghe - quite simply because he has consistently fought a level of opposition that Joe didn't. Having said that, if both men were at their best, I'd fancy Calzaghe to beat Carl.

More Froch-Groves fever as the week progresses...

Luke G. Williams

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