The blockbuster rematch between IBF super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and challenger George Groves will be held at Wembley Stadium on May 31, and promoter Eddie Hearn anticipates that act 2 of this all-British rivalry will smash long-standing records.
“We’re trying to push the boundaries and the reason I wanted to make this fight is because it’s great for the sport,” said the Matchroom boss. “If showcased correctly I believe we can get at least 60,000 people in that stadium for one of the biggest nights in British boxing history.”
Wembley Stadium, which seats 90,000 fans, and the Emirates, both soccer stadiums situated in London, were frontrunners to host the bout. The one possible issue was Froch, as champion, being disenchanted about meeting Groves, who hails from the capital, on his home turf.
“There’s no way we’ll have a crowd full of Londoners,” said Hearn. “This event is so big that people will be coming from all over. In an ideal world Carl Froch, as he is making a title defense, would have had the fight at The City Ground in Nottingham, but it only holds 35,000 fans.
“I would never have forgiven myself if we sold out in a couple of days and I’m left wondering how big this could have been.”
There are naysayers who feel Hearn is miles away on his predictions for such a huge attendance, but it is worth remembering that the Manchester Arena (capacity over twenty thousand) sold out in eleven minutes for fight one, when Froch was a runaway betting favorite.
The rematch is close to being a 50/50 affair, and fans are anticipating a great fight based on the hellacious combat we were treated to during Froch’s controversial ninth-round stoppage of Groves in November.
“I’m a realist and 80,000 or 90,000 are ambitious numbers,” said Hearn. “I still think it can be done, but I definitely see us doing 60,000 and that would make this the biggest fight, attendance wise, of the post-war era.
“The Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper rematch (in May 1966) did 48,000 tickets, but that was a sellout and the stadiums were smaller then. I honestly feel this fight will sell 30 or 40 thousand tickets in a day or two.”
The other good news for Matchroom Promotions is that the Froch and Groves rivalry is the most potent seen on British shores since Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank waged war against one another over 20 years ago.
The Benn and Eubank rematch, which took place at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, brought in 42,000 paid fans and it was hostility, as well as the prospect of ferocious action, which made that event such a hot ticket.
“Carl and George can’t stand each other,” said Hearn. “There are times when George will say that he doesn’t dislike Carl, but that is total bollocks. He can’t stand Carl Froch and Carl Froch can’t stand George Groves.
“I’ve been in the middle of it and when it’s real like this you don’t even have to do anything. You just put Carl and George in a room together and let them talk. We’ll be doing a nationwide tour which will take in London, Nottingham and Manchester and they will be open to the public.
“I want to make the fighters accessible to the public, because I want everyone to be involved in this great event.”
This will be the first ever fight held at the new Wembley Stadium, which was erected in 2007.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing