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Froch fights back to stop brillant Groves - 23/11/2013

Carl Froch climbed off the canvas to stop the brilliant George Groves to retain his WBA and IBF World Super Middleweight titles in the ninth round of their epic battle at the sold-out Phones 4u Arena in Manchester.

Groves stunned the Froch in the opening round of the contest, delivering on his pre-fight vow land right hands and take the fight to the champion, by dumping the champion on his back with one of those brutal right hands. The Cobra managed to get to his feet and survive the round, and the tone was set.

The Londoner continued to pepper Froch with the right hand throughout the fight while Froch’s moments of success were fleeting. ‘Saint’ George was able to take those attacks and counter at as he retained the upper hand in the first half of the fight, before one of the greatest rounds seen in a British ring in a sixth when Groves landed some huge shots and Froch responded in kind.

After that thrilling three minutes, rounds seven and eight simmered before the incredible drama of the ninth and ultimately final round.

Groves began the round well but a left hand clipped Groves a minute into the action before a thudding right briefly staggered the challenger. That was all the invitation the Froch needed and he poured the pressure onto the Londoner, with Groves holding onto Froch in the champions corner before Froch worked him over to the ropes and peppered him with shots until referee Howard Foster called a halt to proceedings and Froch was still the champion.

“I thought it was a fair enough stoppage,” said Froch. “I hit him with two shots at the end and I felt I had a couple more free shots. I was lining up from the right angle as I went in, I honestly had a free shot on him, he was struggling and looking at the floor, his head was turning away.

“That last one or two shots can do some serious damage in this sport. The referee is six inches away from the fighter, he looks into the fighter’s eyes, where the opponent is looking, he looks at the composure and he has to make a split-second decision. You shouldn’t be asking a fighter if he thinks it should have been stopped – of course I thought it should have been stopped and of course George thinks it shouldn’t have been stopped. It is the referee’s decision.

“It is boxing you have to put in the referee's hands. The referee has to protect the fighters and I had a free hit on him and you can’t let me have a free hit on someone, it is dangerous.

“As a fighter I've never disrespected him, I respect him as a boxer. But as a person he was antagonising me and being very disrespectful and being rude and silly and a bit childish, so I said all that. I said what I had to say and I am a man of my word, I stand by my conviction. I am not going to go in there and have a fight with him. I respect him as a fighter, he is a good fighter, and I know what he can do. I have seen him fight time and time again, he is unbeaten, and he has definitely earned more respect from me as a fighter.

“I wanted to have a chat with him mano-a-mano and tell him what I thought of him, ask him his opinion on what he said and why he said it, and deal with it like men. We had a chat, he gave me an answer and I was satisfied with that. He was trying to get under my skin for a reason, it didn’t work and I have got a lot more respect for him as a fighter and a little bit more respect for him as a fighter because he has held his hand up proudly tonight. He has come in here, had a really good go.

“He got booed into the arena and he got cheered out of the arena and that is great. He is 25 years old. When I was 25 years old I honestly say I couldn’t have done that – I turned professional at 25, so for him to come here and do that you have to give him respect.

“One thing is for sure, George can come again. He is 25 years old and has just given a World champion a really, really good fight and I have got respect for him as a fighter and starting to turn it around as a person.

“I must have been quite badly hurt in the first and I am honest enough to admit that. I came out cold, he caught me flush with a shot – I don’t actually know what he hit, I stayed there, my feet held and he hit me with a right hand as I backed up. It was a good shot. But you know what I am like, I get up, I carry on, I spit out the dust and I get stuck in, it is as simple as that. That is why everybody loves me. There are a handful of people here tonight who are booing but I gave everybody in this arena tonight massive entertainment, I can’t be held responsible for what the referee does, he is a professional, experienced referee. You have to give us fighters a break and appreciate that we are in there to do our job and the referee is in there to do his job and that is what we both did tonight and that is what the referee did.”

Groves did turn the crowd in his favour through the fight but that was scant consolation for the challenger who put in the performance of his life to lead on all three judges' scorecards at the end of the eighth round, only to be stopped in the next round, and unjustly so in Groves' opinion.

“He caught me with a good shot but that should never have been a stoppage,” said Groves. “If you look at near enough every round beforehand, I had Carl buzzed and much heavier. Because he has got this warrior image I think he got the benefit of the doubt most of the time, and because for some reason I have this chinny image it was stopped immaturely in my opinion.

“I have immense respect for Carl, I have done in the whole build up. I think now he would respect me a little bit more after my performance tonight. I tried to shake his hand right at the end, and he wasn’t interested. He cooled down for a little bit and then he came and he spoke and said some kind words.

“To come into an arena being booed, because I stuck to a gameplan, I had to come in and upset Carl Froch, tell him the truth – I told you what was going to happen in the first three rounds, we can watch it back and see what happened. Now I am getting cheered, I am getting cheered in front of all these amazing fans. I am so proud to come in and give this display and for all these people to believe in me. I know I am going to be a great fighter and I feel I had it taken away from me tonight, unjustly. But I will be back. I will be back fitter and stronger. Eddie needs to make this happen, I am just gutted. Truly gutted.

“I will be back, I know that. Just like when I spar people, when I fight people I get confidence. I came into this fight supremely confident and if he had a rematch I would feel no different. I will come back better, stronger, and I hope I get that chance.”