Monday, 26 May 2014

Froch Groves fever: the first bout revisited - rounds 6-9

In my last post I began a review of the first Froch - Groves contest, which took place last November in Manchester. After the first 5 rounds, I had Groves comfortably ahead by 49-45.

This post takes up the story with round 6...

Round 6: Groves looks the sharper early on, two clubbing rights hurting Froch high on the head. Froch tries to open up in the centre of the ring, but Groves' superior speed enables him to connect with a flurry of further hurtful blows. The last 40 seconds of the round are thrilling, Groves drops his gloves contemptuously and Froch swings wildly, with some success. Groves' machismo lets him down, as he decides to engage from the ropes rather than box and move. He's warned for use of the head, but reasserts his authority with a couple of snapping jabs at the end of the round
Froch 9-10 Groves (overall 54-59)

Round 7: In the opening minute a Groves jab appears to hurt Froch, who looks in a desperate state. Carl is able to connect with a big right, but only when the fighters are meant to be breaking, and his jab is ineffective. As the round enters its final minute, Froch ships another big right and Groves boxes at range for the remainder of the round, racking up points and scoring with a big left. Froch attempts to go to war on the ropes at the end of the round but the bell intervenes. At this point, it's hard to see how Froch can win.
Froch 9-10 Groves (overall 63-69)

Round 8: Froch backs Groves up with hard and hurtful shots, including a peach of a punch right to Groves' chin. A second Froch charge is curtailed when he's warned for illegal use of his forearm. There's a desperation to Carl's work throughout the round as he tries to take Groves into the trenches, while George counters and seeks to control proceedings with his ramrod jab. When called to break Froch lands a flurry of illegal punches and is somewhat fortunate to avoid a one-point penalty. It's a hard round to score, but Froch's more hurtful flurries probably edge it.
Froch 10-9 Groves (overall 73-78)

Round 9: Groves' crisp work bosses the first minute, as he beats Froch to the jab. The men eventually stand and trade, and Froch has the better of it, landing two or three hurtful rights which hurt Groves and make him look unsteady and ragged. George hangs on but looks in trouble, with still more than a minute of the round left. Froch forces Groves back on to the ropes with a hard left and stinging right. With Groves ducking, weaving and wheeling away from further punishment, referee Howard Foster waves the contest off. Froch celebrates, Groves looks disgusted.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Watching the fight again, several things struck me in particular. Although it's now immaterial, let's get the question of Foster's decision to stop the fight out of the way first. My views are simple: was the stoppage too early? Yes. Would Froch have taken Groves out conclusively if the fight had continued? Possibly, but we'll never know. Is there any point continuing this discussion, given the fact there's now a rematch? No.

To other matters then. The first fight proved beyond doubt that Carl Froch is a tough man - the knockdown he suffered in the first round was massive, and the fact he survived it was borderline miraculous. The will and fortitude Froch demonstrated to keep on fighting, keep on striving and ultimately get back into the fight, hurt his opponent and force a stoppage (albeit a highly contentious one) was considerable.

However, I think that Carl could be in big trouble in the rematch. My rationale? Well, there are two crucial factors that simply can't change between the first fight and the second; namely Groves' advantages in speed and youth. Froch has had a mighty tough career, littered with challenging, punishing fights, and this ring mileage really looked to have caught up with him last time out.

To be totally frank, I can't see Froch outpointing Groves. Watching the first fight again, Carl won, at best, two rounds out of the first eight, and I can't see how the advantages Groves demonstrated in racking up those points can be nullified. George is simply too young, too accurate and too fast and, if he sticks to a plan and boxes rather than goes to war, I think he will win by wide decision or even a late stoppage if he can wear Carl down or score with a big punch - although let's remember that Carl's chin and punch resistance are incredible.

However, that's not to say that Carl can't win - the fight could well follow the pattern of the last contest, with Groves piling up points early and Froch catching up with him late on for a stoppage. Certainly Groves' stamina is unproven - he looked uncomfortable in the later rounds against DeGale for one - and his ability to recover from considerable punishment is similarly unclear. But let's not forget that Carl will probably need to nail Groves to the canvas for a stoppage to happen. I simply can't see the likely referee Charlie Fitch being bold enough to enforce any sort of stoppage that could possibly be construed as premature. (That's no sleight on Fitch by the way, after the furore last time and with 80,000 baying fans in attendance, I don't think there's a referee alive who would dare to decide on an early stoppage).

There's another possibility as well, which is that Groves, in a bid to right the wrongs of last time, abandons his boxing and decides to engage Froch in an all-out war. He certainly displayed an occasional lack of discipline in the last couple of rounds of the first fight, going to war and engaging Carl toe-to-toe when the sensible tactic would have been to box and move. If he does this, then his doom is assured.

However, I think that Groves is too canny to fall for into that trap. He now knows how tough Carl is, as well as how hard he hits and continues to hit even when being totally outboxed. Therefore I see Groves boxing a bit smarter than before, and trying to tie Carl up quicker if he is unloading, rather than standing and engaging.

Groves also, to my mind, possesses a huge motivational and psychological advantage going into this fight. More on that as the week progresses and, while I reserve the right to change my prediction nearer to the opening bell, having viewed the first fight again, I believe that George Groves will win on Saturday by a unanimous points decision.

Would I put money on it though? No. And that's the unpredictable beauty of boxing!

Remember, I'll be tweeting from Wembley on Saturday night @boxianajournal

Luke G. Williams

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