The IBF super middleweight title fight on May 31 will be contested between two Brits but, make no mistake, Carl Froch versus George Groves Part 2 is one of the biggest events in world boxing.
Last November a premature stoppage, following a superb prize fight, set the stage for a second installment of this viscerally potent rivalry. Froch, as defending champion, entered the Manchester Arena as a heavy favorite, but was decked in the opening round and endured hell prior to claiming a controversial ninth-round victory.
Groves, as well as the vast majority of the boxing fraternity, was incredulous at referee Howard Foster’s decision to halt the action and lobbied to be reinstated as mandatory challenger. The appeals process was successful and Matchroom Promotions worked hard to broker a deal which satisfied both fighters.
The signatures on the contract were dry and more good news followed when Wembley Stadium, which holds approximately 90,000 fans, jumped on board to host what could become the most successful and lucrative fight in British boxing history.
The challenger carried an air of destiny prior to fight one, but was denied on the night by a relentless champion and what many perceive to be a cruel twist of fate. Groves has said continually that he didn’t want any favors, he only wanted what was right and now the London-born boxer puncher has it.
RingTV.com spoke to George Groves who, if you can believe it, is even more confident of victory in this blockbuster sequel.
RingTV.com: Can you express your feelings at the rematch taking place at Wembley Stadium?
George Groves: Wembley Stadium is a national treasure and this is the perfect fight for such a great venue. It’s the home of football, but on that night it’ll be all about boxing. Eddie Hearn moved heaven and earth to make it happen, and I think everyone knew the fight had to happen in the capital.
What’s interesting is that Carl Froch has said repeatedly that he’s the champion and calls the shots, but so far I’ve got him to take a fight that he didn’t want to take and now the venue is in my hometown.
How many times did he say he couldn’t get up for a rematch? How many times did he mention Vegas and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr? The only thing he will never admit is that he didn’t want the rematch because he got pasted the first time and will get even worse this time.
It’s been an interesting turnaround and I seem to be getting things all my own way. Carl is conforming, either consciously or subconsciously, to everything I’ve asked for and I haven’t even had the guidance of a manager or a promoter.
As I said many times – Froch had nowhere to go.
RTV: Carl Froch had mentioned Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as a prospective opponent. What were your thoughts?
GG: That was simply Carl attempting to present options which weren’t there. Selling Chavez in Vegas was some sort of justification for not fighting me, but in reality nobody was interested. Chavez has a great name, which doesn’t really belong to him, and ultimately he’s a 160-pounder who fails to make weight constantly.
Chavez was coming off a dodgy decision over Bryan Vera, which he recently avenged, but a Froch versus Chavez fight was always dead in the water. Carl tried to sell it on the basis that it was a lifelong ambition to fight in Vegas, but he had never mentioned that lifelong ambition until people started asking him about the rematch.
Froch was attempting to win over the public with the Chavez stuff, because the last fight he ever wanted to take was against me. The problem is I’m his mandatory challenger and, even if we put that to one side, he still had no other options. If Carl Froch had another option the, believe me, he would have taken it.
He simply had to face the music.
RTV: You’re a married man with a busy life, but prior to this rematch being made how often would Carl Froch and all the controversy surrounding the first fight occupy your thoughts?
GG: I can detach myself from the sport. I’ve been so busy getting the rematch made and playing poker with promoters that the time has just flown by. I’m happy with what I’ve been dealt and I think we’ve handled things pretty well. I’ve got the fight that I want, the terms that I want, the money that I want and the stadium that I want.
The priority was getting the rematch done and soon all the media commitments will be over and I can get back to doing what I do best. I’ll be in the gym without distractions, ready to rock n’ roll.
RTV: Did you celebrate when the rematch was signed and sealed?
GG: In New Jersey, following the hearing with the IBF, we were quietly confident. My trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick, my solicitor and I all went out to an Irish bar and got slowly drunk on watered down Guinness. We lived to regret it, though, because the next thing we had on was a horrendous six-hour flight to Los Angeles.
It may have been a premature celebration, but everything worked out in the end.
RTV: Eddie Hearn, and yourself, have referred to the rematch as the biggest fight in British boxing history. Has the magnitude of this event hit you and can you explain your feelings three months out?
GG: I try not to think about it too much. The buildup to the first fight was crazy and, as you said, this one is new territory. There are world champions in this game who haven’t, and never will, experience an event like this.
I’ve been around all the top pay-per-view cards in recent times. I was on the undercard of David Haye’s title defenses, the Froch Kessler rematch, and I headlined against James DeGale and Carl Froch myself. I’m accustomed to being part of the big shows, but this is another level entirely. We’re looking at 3 months of carnage in the buildup to this one.
There are other positives that make the fight a must-see. Firstly, the trash talk is real and nobody is acting for the sake of hype. Secondly, like most Carl Froch fights, our first meeting was very entertaining, and there’s a reason for that. Froch always has a go and because of that he likes to eat a punch – he takes them all night long.
Whether Froch lasts one round or twelve rounds he’s always there to take a beating, so people will tune in on fight night.
RTV: You spent some time in the States talking with different promoters, but you remain a free agent. Will you review your status at a later date?
GG: I will sign with a promoter because it frees up my time and I have no interest in that side of the business.
I will always have someone alongside me, but I’ll be taking care of the management side of things. It’s important for me to manage my own affairs, because I know my value and I know how to read a spreadsheet.
You have a personal assistant; they sort out invoices, you have a solicitor; they make sure the wording in the contracts is correct, and you have a trainer who gets you in shape and formulates a game plan. I don’t need a manager because I have everything covered and there isn’t a manager around who can offer me anything.
That’s where I’m at right now and in terms of promotional companies I may sign with Matchroom, or I could look elsewhere – it depends. I’m in popular demand at the moment, because a lot of people expect me to beat Carl Froch, so I’m keeping my options open.
RTV: In fight one, Froch proved again that he can absorb tremendous punishment and fire back, but you’ve predicted an early stoppage in the rematch. What does George Groves do this time to make sure there is no coming back?
GG: This is a three-round fight if I want it to be. I know I can hurt Carl Froch and I have faster hands, faster feet, better defense, better technique, more variety and I have the superior artillery.
I beat Froch in every aspect of the game and the only area where he betters me is taking a beating. Carl can take a punch well and doesn’t surrender, but he won’t have that option this time because I’m going to render him unconscious. If he’s negative then I’ll lay leather on him early, and if he comes out fast then he just leaves more openings.
Carl isn’t the 12-round fighter he claims to be. He either starts fast and slows down or starts slow and picks it up later on. He’s an old man and, after the last fight, I can only imagine the flashbacks he’ll be having during his ring walk.
He needs to keep himself calm and composed and he has never been able to do that in his entire career. How on earth will he be able to do it on the biggest stage of all against a guy who annihilated him?
RTV: When does hard work begin and will there be any major changes in this camp?
GG: I have time to settle for the rematch, whereas last time I only had nine weeks and was breaking in a new coach. Paddy and I work well together and he was a lot more reserved than he will be this time around (during the buildup). There will be changes for the good, because we know what we have in front of us this time around.
I’ve been training for four or five weeks already, stripping the fat and getting my eye on the technical stuff. This is just some pre-training before the hard work begins and it doesn’t take long for me to get fit. Getting myself teak-tough, conditioned to fight and my weight down is what takes time.
I’m considering a trip away but it’s difficult because if I pick up any niggles during camp then I like to see my own doctor. That needs to be factored in, but London looks good right now, with the sun shining, although a trip to Miami would be nice.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing