Harry Pratt

Froch and Groves in peaceful mood ahead of grudge rematch

It passed without hitch, commotion or any obvious needle. Indeed, there was scarcely a raised voice, let alone a shove or spat. 

Fair to say, IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch and challenger George Groves were the model of diplomacy and good behavior Thursday lunchtime at Wembley Stadium, north west London, just a little over 48 hours before they collide in their grudge rematch before an 80,000 sell-out crowd – a record for British boxing.

Do not be fooled, the pair are primed to enter the ring on Saturday night for the second time in six months – and there is clearly no love lost between the fellow Englishman.

But anybody who expected fireworks, whether physical or verbal, at their last press conference to promote the clash, which is being screened in the UK on Sky Sports Box Office and via HBO in the United States, were to be disappointed. There was nothing of the sort as both Froch (32-2, 23 knockouts) and Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) delivered relaxed declarations of intent.

The only matter for dispute, aside the outcome, came when 26-year-old Groves, whose Hammersmith home is a mere six miles from Wembley, suggested he would win by taking out the 36-year-old from Nottingham by way of a left hook.

 “Anyone who has watched me in the build-up will know we have been working on the left hook. That’s the one that will work and that will be the one that finishes him off,” said Groves, who lost the first meeting in Manchester by way of a controversial 9th-round stoppage and despite dropping Froch heavily in round one.

That drew a quick response from Froch, who raised his right hand as if to mockingly protect himself from the shot in question.  But he then left the matter alone and turned his attention to his age and the possibility it might be catching him up as he prepares for his 12th straight title fight.

"If people are using the age of 36 as a question mark to ask if I can still do it at this level, then the answer is of course I can and I know what it takes to do it, “ said the four-time 168-pound beltholder. "Everything I do is monitored these days and, even if it is a cliché, age is just a number. I train to fight 15 rounds, I wish they would all go on that long – but I can’t see that happening on Saturday.

“But whatever happens I am prepared for it. Better prepared, both mentally and physically, than for the first fight. That might be down to me knowing George Groves is better than I thought last time – as he did do well in the early rounds – or it might be that I just needed a kick up the backside. But training has been perfect and I am feeling in great shape. This is my legacy and I will win this fight."

It was almost as if there was modicum of respect for what Groves brings to the table following their opening dust-up. Groves, though, reckons that even if Froch does have that knowledge it will not be sufficient to stop justice, as he sees it, being done this time.

“Until I have won the second fight and have beaten Carl I am going to be sore about being robbed in the first one. Once the fight is over and I have the belts, then I will be able to forget what happened. It will probably get pretty emotional,” said Groves.

“I told Carl what would happen in the first fight and now I have told him that I will beat him this time with the left hook – because I know he can’t adapt or change in just 48 hours. It’s a bit mean of me, really. We are picking up where we left off in last fight. I will get better with every round and I can go 12 no problem. And it’s going to be one-sided from the start – just like the last fight.”

As for the distinct lack of trash-talking and attempts to get inside the other man’s head, neither seemed in the mood to get involved.

“Today I expected something new from Groves,” said Froch. “But he didn’t do anything. He looked a bit jaded and maybe that’s because it’s hitting him just how big this is. I have done big fights on big stages in the UK and abroad. That prepares you for this sort of situation – even if it is my first time in front of 80,000 fans.

"But all of sudden Groves has landed on the big stage. He’s talked it for three months, how excited he is and that everything is for a reason. But all these little sayings, we didn’t get any today. It’s hitting home, reality is setting in as it often does in fight week. That’s when you can freeze but he better hope he doesn’t on Saturday because I certainly won’t.”

Groves, however, insists he is unconcerned by the magnitude of the night looming, or with trying to rattle the Cobra’s cage – as he managed to do successfully before their previous encounter.

“It’s peaceful. I don’t hate Carl. I just don’t like him. But I’ve done my talking and Carl has done his talking,” said Groves. “I’ve got tunnel vision. I’m ready and I’m looking forward to being the world champion on Saturday. But it’s still 56 hours away – and that’s too long.” 

The calm before the storm? Most definitely.

 

Harry Pratt is on Twitter: @gharrypratt

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