With the rematch now only just around the corner, what better time to take a look back at Froch/Groves 1 to see where the fight was won and lost?
On November 23rd of last year, George Groves entered the bout as a sizable underdog. The young Londoner was viewed by many as almost a stopgap opponent for the four time world titlist Carl Froch, but like so often in boxing, things went against script. Groves dominated the early exchanges and took clear control over the bout. Ahead on the scorecards, but with the tide turning and Froch hunting for a finish, experienced official Howard Foster stepped in and awarded the stoppage victory to Nottingham’s Cobra, and in doing so, put an end to Groves’ championship ambitions.
The stoppage was divisive. Most felt it was too soon, but by how much? Was the bout still really in the balance or did the ref just save a young fighter from taking unnecessary punishment? On that night, Carl Froch won by 9th round TKO, but this isn’t about how it ended. It’s about the road which got us there.
Rewritten: Froch Vs Groves 1
I have included the full fight footage from the original Sky broadcast below, so you can follow along as it happened and draw your own conclusions.
I felt going into this one that Groves would have some success early. The guy has been quick out of the blocks in all his fights and Carl can often take a round or two to get going. Everything George does well, he did exceptionally well here in this opener. He’s a superb judge of range, his hand-speed is excellent, and he was the one able to get his shots home early.
Carl was off the pace for sure in the first. He tried force his work and left himself wide open a couple of times on big lunges, the second of which he was caught clean on and put on the deck. He got up quickly – probably too quickly. That shot landing on almost any other super-middleweight would have been a show closer. It won Groves this round and maybe a few more that followed as well. The punch after the bell was a little bit cheeky from George and maybe should have earned him a warning.
Froch still looks heavy-legged from the knockdown. The power hasn’t quite returned to his punches yet either. He was able to use a few old tricks to steady the ship though. He limited his movement, tied up in close, mauled on the inside and mixed in some rough stuff too. It got him a foothold back in the contest.
The bigger and better shots are still coming from George though. The right-hand is still finding its target easily and doing damage when it does. A good recovery round for Froch after the worst possible of starts, but it’s another one for Groves on my scorecard.
At this point, Groves really fancies it. He’s quick to take center ring and looks to put Carl on the back-foot immediately. Froch’s timing looks way off again, his work is without rhythm, and this time it’s the Groves jab which finds it’s mark – usually in twos and threes.
You can almost see Froch recognizing that things just aren’t going to flow for him here. It’s time to switch to plan B and try grinding out the result. A firefight breaks out with a minute to go and Carl lands his first truly telling blow of the bout. It’s this shot which starts the swelling on Groves eye which in turn perhaps plays a part in turning the fight later.
This was a much closer round. The difference between them was probably just one sharp righthand from Groves which caught Froch as he was trying to back-pedal. Groves is nowhere near as active as he was in the first three, and because of that, he had less room to breath. Carl’s defense and movement are both still AWOL though. I have to believe they were taken from him in that disastrous first round.
Froch steals this one on work-rate and finally gets himself on the board. This is the first time in the fight he was able to contend for center ring. He still couldn’t get the jab going to any success, but when he worked combos off of it, he got through with some little flurries. It all looked like very laboured work, but it’s becoming more the fight he wants it to be.
This is a round Groves clearly won, but in doing so, it might have cost him the fight. Both guys put so much in to this one. I remember when watching this live I thought that this was the pivotal moment: whoever could recover best from this round would go on to take the fight.
When you start going down that road, you’re in Carl Froch territory. Groves hit him with the best shots in his repertoire – dozens of them – and by the end of the session, Carl was starting to walk through them. For my money, this is where the fight was won and lost.
There were two different battles going on in this round. On the outside, Groves continues to dominate, but on the inside, it’s all Froch. George landed again and again with that right, but Froch seems more comfortable taking them now.
The first signs that Groves might be starting to unravel came early in the round. Froch worked him over on the break causing him to first turtle up and then cling on. It was a panicked response in a round he was otherwise in control of; that in itself perhaps suggests this is starting to become a struggle for him.
Froch rattled Groves twice in quick succession early in this round. George responds badly again – this time turning his back while trying to retreat to the ropes. These are the things I have no doubt the referee saw and likely played a part in his decision to ultimately stop the fight when he did.
Carl may have let his challenger off the hook a couple of times in this round by not staying disciplined. A handful of dirty shots, which the referee picked up on, gave Groves time to get his bearings back. Carl was fortunate not to lose a point himself too. The pace from Groves has dropped off completely. He’s now being forced to fight with Froch, he’s being hurt in exchanges, and his own shots aren’t carrying the same weight anymore.
This stoppage has been shown out of context so many times since it happened that I think people probably perceive it as being a lot worse than it actually was. When it’s being analyzed, the focus is always on just the last exchange or the last couple of exchanges, and really that doesn’t tell the whole story. You have to view it as a whole round to get a proper sense of perspective.
Groves’ legs went very early in the 9th. There’s approximately a 40 second stretch where he’s trying to either push away, hang on, or spoil or retreat while Froch is winging for the home run smash. George at this point has been taking shots poorly for a couple of rounds. When he stumbles forward, the ref is left to make a judgement call; either he steps in and stops the fight or lets Froch continue to tee off on him. Those are his only two options. There is no standing count.
My feeling is the stoppage did come a punch or two early, but I don’t believe it would have made any difference. There was still a minute and a half on the clock. Groves wasn’t making it to the bell, and if he did, he would have been likely stopped in the next round anyway. The momentum of the fight had swung and George was on empty. He had been dragged into a Froch war and he no longer had the strength or energy to hold him off. The stoppage in my view was inevitable.
Result: Froch TKO 9
Final thoughts ahead of the rematch
On my card
At the time of stoppage, I had the fight scored 78-73 in favour of Groves. That put him ahead by a five point margin leading into the 9th. Here’s where it gets interesting: had Groves survived the round without taking a count, his lead would be reduced to four with 3 rounds left – meaning a Froch sweep wouldn’t have been enough on my card for him to keep his titles as long as Groves never touched down. Now, should Froch take that round 10-8, then just winning the remaining three rounds would have gotten him the draw. Any further knockdowns down the stretch would have clinched the win for him.
Judge Dave Paris had it at exactly the same score as I did. He would have been overruled though by Waleska Roldan and Massimiliano Bianco – both of which had the fight 76-75 – just a one point lead for Groves. A 10-9 in the 9th for Froch would have put him on even footing with three rounds left to go. A 10-8 score would see him already up on the cards starting the 10th. With momentum having tilted heavily in Froch’s favour, it seems unlikely George could have taken a winning share of the remaining rounds even if he had of survived the round 9 onslaught.
What did round 1 really mean?
Groves caught Froch cold in the first. He saw a mistake, capitalized on it, and landed the perfect punch. It was a shot which in most circumstances would have resulted in knockout. The question I ask is did it take something out of Carl Froch for the remainder of the bout or at least for the next several rounds? Groves couldn’t have had any better a start. If you remove that knockdown from the equation, does it completely change the outline of this fight? Was Groves’ early dominance more of a reflection of a Froch who was still in recovery mode?
Hitting the wall in Round 9
I scored six of the eight completed rounds to George Groves – many of which he won big. The argument can be made that he knows how to beat Carl Froch because for half a fight he did it more convincingly than anybody else before him (Andre Ward included). Did he show his inexperienced by getting drawn in to a game of punch power and resistance by one one of the true masters? Groves is not as tough as Carl Froch, but can he learn from that this time and not get suckered in? If he stays focused, is he capable of doing for 12 rounds what he did in the first 6 last time? Or are those championship rounds always going to be heavy weather for him when he’s competing at the highest level? George has faded down the stretch before. For Froch, his best rounds have usually come late in his toughest fights.
The worst Carl Froch vs the best George Groves?
That’s the mantra Froch has used to describe their first meeting time and again in public appearances, but is that what this was? Was it George Groves’ golden opportunity to beat Carl Froch? Carl believes he can’t possibly fight as badly again and he won the fight anyway. If that’s true, is Groves capable of performing any better than he did last time? He’s the boxer on the rise. He now has a settled training camp. And this time he also has the experience of having fought for a world title. He will know what he did right and what he did wrong, but more importantly he will know what is required at this level. Can those things push him on to the next level or will there be some lingering doubts from a first professional defeat?
For Froch, he will look to poor preparation, lack of motivation, a dreadful start and a George Groves who was firing on all cylinders as reasons for why he didn’t perform in November. He knows he needs to be at his peak both physically and mentally to avoid the same pitfalls on second go around. He will feel that the closing stages of their first contest showed that he can take the fight to a place Groves couldn’t survive. Is he right though, or does George Groves just have the perfect style to oppose him? Did Groves let him off the hook by allowing him a way back into the fight?