Will age be a factor in Saturday's rematch between IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch and challenger George Groves? In their previous bout in November, Froch had to rise from a first-round knockdown to secure a disputed ninth-round stoppage in Manchester, England.
With Groves having turned 26 in March and Froch on the verge of his own 37th birthday in July, the "age factor" remains to be seen in their clash at Wembley Arena in London.
"Nearly defanged in Manchester last year by a hungry mongoose in the form of George Groves, Carl 'The Cobra' Froch has been at or near the top of boxing for some time now," states Jeffrey Freeman of KO Digest in regard to Froch, THE RING's 10th-ranked fighter, pound-for-pound. "There have been recent signs, however, that Froch is cracking up and getting ready to crumble."
Since falling to RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward by unanimous decision in their December 2011 bout for the RING, WBA and WBC belts, Froch (32-2, 23 knockouts) has won four straight fights, three of them by knockout.
THE RING’s number one-rated 168-pounder, Froch first faced Groves after having earned a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Mikkel Kessler last May in a rematch of their April 2010 bout in which Kessler unanimously decisioned Froch as part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Prior to facing Kessler, Froch had earned consecutive stoppage victories over Philadelphia’s Yusaf Mack in the third round and previously unbeaten IBF beltholder Lucian Bute in the fifth in May and November of 2012, respectively.
On the Froch-Kessler II undercard, Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) scored his third straight stoppage victory in the fifth round over Noe Gonzalez, ending his winning streak of two consecutive first round knockouts.
A confident Groves has vowed to stop Froch "in three rounds" on Saturday.
"Groves built up a big lead until the controversial stoppage. But the nature of the stoppage overshadowed the fact that Froch had figured out Groves late," states Andreas Hale of KnockoutNation.com. "Although Froch should be entering the downhill slide of his athleticism, he should be better prepared to not find himself behind on the scorecards as he did the first time around."
RingTV.com sought the opinions of 22 insiders as to what will transpire in Froch-Groves II.
Carl Froch W 12 George Groves: The worst thing Carl Froch can do is believe he can just pick up where he left off and expect George Groves to roll over. That won't happen at all.
That said, Groves has to do a better job of pacing himself, which can lead to his giving away rounds. I expect a close fight but a reversal of the first with Froch jumping out to a stronger start and Groves forced to play catch-up but ultimately running out of time.
Record: 8-4 [Last pick: Marquez TKO Alvarado]
Carl Froch by late TKO George Groves: This is a gut pick. Carl Froch is getting long in the tooth and there's a fine line between being "battle-tested" and being "battle-worn" in professional boxing. Froch looked like his best days were well behind him when he struggled with the younger, fresher, faster and arguably harder-punching George Groves last November.
Groves isn't just the better athlete; he's also the superior technician. So why would I go with Froch given the brutal knockdown Groves scored in the opening round of their first match and the beating he put on the older man in the majority of rounds that followed? Because my gut says so and my gut is usually right when Froch is involved.
I believe what I said before Froch's fight with Lucian Bute holds true for this matchup. If they were tennis players, I'd have to go with the better athlete/technician, which was Bute and is now Groves. But they ain't playing a game. They're in a fist fight where guts count a lot. Groves is talking like he's already got this rematch won and everything he's told the media about Froch's limitations is true.
But one thing the 26-year-old Londoner is not doing is acknowledging that the older man survived his early rounds fury and had begun to claw his way back into the fight before the controversial stoppage and he refuses to acknowledge that he was in some trouble when the referee suffered his panic attack and prematurely halted the bout.
I think that Froch, who is a smart ring general despite his crude technique, is going to be more careful in the early rounds of this rematch and gradually press the brash challenger in the middle of the fight. Groves will get off brilliantly in spots but Froch will be ready to hit him back.
Both men will be hurt during certain exchanges. But I think Froch will deal with that adversity better than Groves does and my gut says he will keep coming and keep hitting Groves until the challenger is backed to the ropes and helpless. I don't think there will be any controversy when the referee stops it this time.
Record: 4-3 [Last pick: Arreola late-round stoppage Stiverne]
Carl Froch UD 12 George Groves: Caution is often the approach in a rematch of a fight as contentious as George Groves' debatable TKO loss to Carl Froch. Experience and smarts are more of a key than so-called bad blood.
At 36, Froch has both for what could turn into 12 rounds of adjustments. Froch was knocked down in the first round by Groves.
The guess is he'll know not to let that happen again before taking the fight into later rounds, where he's been more often than the younger Groves.
Record: 10-5 [Last pick: Alvarado TKO 10 Marquez]
George Groves W 12 Carl Froch: Nearly defanged in Manchester last year by a hungry mongoose in the form of George Groves, Carl "The Cobra" Froch has been at or near the top of boxing for some time now. There have been recent signs, however, that Froch is cracking up and getting ready to crumble.
Start with his forked tongue and out-of-character threats to literally kill Mikkel Kessler in their 2013 sequel. Consider that in the corner of "Saint George" Groves, they are publicly concerned that rabbit punches from Froch could actually foul their man to death in this rematch.
Also, remember that it was Froch who was dropped hard in the first round against Groves last year before a controversial referee stoppage robbed fans of the conclusive result that we're hoping to get this time around.
What does all this add up to? A 10-year age difference for one thing. The 36-year-old Froch might not be ready to shuffle off the mortal coil just yet but for the 26-year-old Groves, youth prevails in a more tactical encounter.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Marquez UD Alvarado]
Carl Froch UD 12 George Groves: You figure Carl Froch is due to hit a road block. Froch sort of hit that road block; however, you can never count him out. When Froch lost to Andre Ward, he was written off.
But then, Froch knocks out Lucian Bute. Kayoes Bute and looks real good during a unanimous decision victory over Mikkel Kessler. George Groves is tough but I like Froch to win by unanimous decision, 117-111, twice, and 116-112.
George Groves SD 12 Carl Froch: Going into the first fight, I said George Groves had the power to hurt any 168-pound fighter and he didn’t disappoint. With that said, the challenger’s technical superiority was a big surprise and Carl Froch had to go through hell on Earth to secure a controversial stoppage in a fight he was losing.
There are those who maintain the champion was so hurt from the first round knockdown that it took him several rounds to get going but my take is that Groves simply possesses the better skill set at ring center.
The one mistake Groves did make, however, was throwing all his eggs into one basket and looking for a knockout, which sapped his stamina and allowed "The Cobra" to roar back. I expect a high quality rematch where Groves uses his sharp skills in more economical fashion to build a commanding lead. Froch will sense urgency and come on late but he may visit the canvas again if he gets careless.
I expect Groves to win clearly but it wouldn't be top-flight boxing without at least one idiotic scorecard. Despite going against the champion, I wouldn't write Froch off against any fighter. His willpower and determination are just incredible.
Record: 12-2 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch W 12 George Groves: Hate to go against "family" here but I believe Carl Froch may well have overlooked George Groves the first time around and nearly paid a huge price for his overconfidence. There will be no surprises this time as Froch's experience, grit and volume will overcome the challenger's youth and vigor.
Record: 5-3 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch UD 12 George Groves: Don't expect the trouble that Carl Froch had with George Groves the first time around to resurface in the rematch. Groves built up a big lead until the controversial stoppage.
But the nature of the stoppage overshadowed the fact that Froch had figured out Groves late. Although Froch should be entering the downhill slide of his athleticism, he should be better prepared to not find himself behind on the scorecards as he did the first time around.
Groves will definitely give him fits due to his technically sound style but it won't be enough as Froch doesn't find himself on the canvas and earns the decision.
Record: 12-2 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch TKO 10 George Groves: Their first fight was fraught with drama and I think the huge crowd, atmosphere and the war of words will lead this bout into that same direction. Carl Froch has been one of the best fighters in the world over the last decade.
Froch is getting a little long in the tooth but I think he still has enough left to overcome whatever George Groves brings and that is considerable in the way of attack.
Groves will have his moments but Froch will begin to dominate about the midway point of the fight and stop Groves without the attendant controversy this time.
Record: 10-5 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch UD 12 George Groves: It's impossible to deny Groves’ tremendous effort in their first encounter but knowing that Carl Froch is a slow starter and seeing the way George Groves mismanaged his lead and his energy during their first fight, it is also difficult to see George outlasting Carl in this rematch.
It will be interesting to see what they learned from each other in their first clash but I believe Froch’s accumulated knowledge and stamina, along with his toughness, will be enough for him to carry the day.
Record: 1-1 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 10 Alvarado]
Carl Froch KO 9 George Groves: This is a very interesting fight. This time around, Carl Froch should know what he is in for and can George Groves do any better?
The answers are yes and no. Froch is a nasty sort and will take no bull. He'll wear down Groves and punish him until the stoppage comes in, say about round nine.
Record: 8-1 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch KO 8 George Groves: Carl Froch-George Groves II is a tough one to call for sure and it promises to be a belter. But the fact is that although Froch, a 36-year-old titleholder, was given a real battering by Groves for six rounds back in November, he still managed to survive and then seriously thrive. The ninth round stoppage was premature, of course.
But the quick ending only spared the man from Hammersmith suffering a genuine KO at the hands of an increasingly powerful Froch. Had that happened, there would have been no rematch ordered by the IBF. Also, Froch would not have spent the last two months mentally and physically preparing himself for the undoubted qualities that he now knows Groves possesses.
Therein lies my reason for picking Froch to win again, only this time, with an undisputed stoppage in maybe round seven or round eight, for the element of surprise Groves enjoyed in Manchester, both in and out of the ring, is no longer there.
Record: 2-2 [Last pick: Mayweather TKO 9 Maidana]
Carl Froch TKO 10 George Groves: George Groves begged for a rematch after questionably losing his first go around with Carl Froch. In my opinion, Groves had every right to complain.
The stoppage was premature. Both fighters are highly-motivated for the sequel. Froch has said he won't underestimate Groves this time. Groves recently predicted that he'd knockout Froch in three rounds.
That could happen if he catches him with a solid shot. Groves is talented fighter but I believe Froch will stop him in round 10.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch W 12 George Groves: I like Carl Froch to clear the air against George Groves. Even if you subscribe to the theory that their first encounter was stopped prematurely, that largely overlooks the reason why the fight was stopped at all. The fight was ended because Groves was hurt and Froch was coming on.
While I definitely think Froch has slipped a level or two during the past few years, I believe he still has enough to beat Groves. In other words, Froch can be better than he was last time. I'm not sure if Groves can.
Record: 10-4 [Last pick: Marquez KO 10 Alvarado]
Carl Froch W 12 George Groves: While George Groves had built a hell of a lead the first time, he seemed to be unraveling a bit, and the judges were not doing him any favors. Carl Froch will be better prepared but the miles on him leave room for doubt.
Froch has faced arguably the most consistently tough opposition in the world for almost six years. At 36, it has to catch up eventually and he'll still be slower and Groves is better technically.
Still, in what has become the biggest – in terms of crowd and likely global audience, if not money – fight of 2014, Froch has a chance to solidify himself as a near-folk hero among hardcore fans and the U.K. faithful. In a pick 'em fight, the more experienced man wins the coin toss.
Record: 8-6 [Last pick: Alvarado KO Marquez]
Carl Froch UD 12 George Groves: I think Carl Froch underestimated George Groves in their first fight, which allowed Groves to build an early lead before Froch woke up.
That won't happen this time. I expect Froch to get off to a faster start, fend off a spirited challenge from Groves and win a unanimous decision.
Record: 8-3 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch KO 6 George Groves: Carl Froch has a lot of tread on those tires but I think he has enough to beat George Groves again.
Froch got up from the first round knockdown to stop Groves the last time they faced each other. Who is to say that Froch can't get it done sooner this time, though I do see Groves trying to box and stay away.
Record: 7-0 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch SD 12 George Groves: George Groves had very little big fight experience going in to the last fight but he performed like he had been there numerous times.
As good as the first fight was, the rematch will live up to its lofty expectations in a back-and-forth war.
I think Carl Froch will out-box and out-slug Groves by a slim margin in an exciting fight but another late stoppage wouldn't surprise me.
Record: 9-1 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 11 Alvarado]
Carl Froch TKO 7 George Groves: These guys hate each other and that gives fans even more of a reason to watch this highly-anticipated rematch. With 80,000 Brits in Wembley screaming, cheering or whistling with every move by each fighter, it should harken back to big, golden-age title bouts in the United States at Yankee Stadium.
Carl Froch is a little bigger and, I believe, stronger. Froch can take more punishment than George Groves. While Groves has the edge in quickness and boxing ability, Froch will negate that by attacking Groves and trying to make it an inside fight. Froch will go toe-to-toe for the KO and while it will take him a while to do it, it will happen.
Record: 8-1 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch W 12 George Groves: Carl Froch underestimated his foe in the beginning and now George Groves has been underestimating his adversary in their rematch.
Although Groves wants nothing more than to prove he was the better man that night, the result will, nevertheless, only provide a second victory for Mr. Froch.
Record: 9-4 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 11 Alvarado]
George Groves UD 12 Carl Froch: I don't believe many people were expecting George Groves to put Carl "The Cobra" Froch on the canvas in the first round of their last meeting but it happened.
While Froch has provided numerous entertaining performances based upon an awkward style and more-than-respectable power, he is the downside of his thirties.
Groves was able to find a home for his right hand throughout the entire fight until Froch was able to tag Groves and an antsy referee decided to step in.
Froch may be have rededicated himself to training – though no one has ever said he wasn't dedicated – and found a sports psychologist to help his mental game.
But Froch is aging while Groves continues his own march towards a physical peak, so look for Groves to lay hands on Froch once again and to rightfully take the unanimous decison from "The Cobra."
Record: 5-4 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Carl Froch TKO 9 George Groves: I've gone back and forth on this one. Does youth serve or does experience tell? It seems Britain isn't big enough for these two to co-exist, so prepare for the shenanigans to continue the week of the fight.
In that regard, George Groves seems to have Carl Froch's number, constantly getting under the older man's skin. Once again, I see the young protagonist starting well, using his edge in speed to counter Froch.
This time, however, I suspect Froch will be a little better prepared and do better in the opening exchanges. Groves knows that having dropped Froch in the opening stanza of their first meeting and landing several flush shots that he can hurt the Sheriff of Nottingham.
That said, I feel that plays into Froch's wheelhouse. I see Groves being overly aggressive and getting tagged himself. All told, I see Froch winning by scoring a stoppage around the ninth round, this time, minus the controversy.
Record: 10-3 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 10 Alvarado]
By an overwhelming margin of 19-3, the insiders favor IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch to, yet again, defeat challenger George Groves and retain his belt.
Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images