Amidst an electric soccer-style atmosphere, Carl Froch claimed an eighth-round stoppage victory over countryman George Groves in London on Saturday to retain his IBF super middleweight title. There was no controversy this time as “The Cobra” closed with a thunderous right hand to the jaw, which rendered Groves helpless before a U.K. post-war attendance record of 80,000 paid fans at Wembley Stadium.
The official time was 2:34 and there were no complaints from the Groves camp at the validity of this stoppage.
“I’m feeling unbelievably elated,” said Froch, who is ranked No. 1 by THE RING at 168 pounds, under champion Andre Ward. “This is the best moment of my career and this is the best crowd I’ve ever fought in front of. It was a very close fight, but sometimes in boxing it only takes one punch and unfortunately George was on the end of a very heavy right hand tonight.”
Groves, who weighed in officially at 166.25 pounds, made an elaborate entrance on a traditional London bus with flame bursts surrounding him as the huge sell-out crowd exploded in unison. The champion followed and fired off quick combinations as lasers blazed overhead in scenes that would put Las Vegas to shame.
When the first bell rang both men were content to keep the fight long and there was a distinct air of caution in sharp contrast to the chaotic opening of their first encounter. That pace was maintained until Round 3 when the crowd began booing and suddenly Froch sprang into action. The champion landed a brace of shots to the head and although Groves countered, a message had been delivered.
Not to be outdone, Groves responded brilliantly in the fourth and crossed the right hand several times with success. The action was heating up in what looked to be an even fight to this point, but it was noticeable that Froch was occupying more of ring center than he did in fight one, and Groves was far more economical with his own approach.
In rounds five and six Froch, who weighed 167.75 pounds, upped the tempo and unloaded with two-fisted assaults as Groves resorted to countering with single shots. The challenger was wearing a look of concern and Froch, who was having noticeably more success at long range, was getting more and more accurate.
Still, a jolting left jab made Froch give ground in Round 7 and Groves performed extremely well on the counter throughout the session. The Londoner picked all the empty spots between Froch’s rushes and seemed to control the action as the champion struggled to find his timing. It was nip and tuck and the tension was building.
The knockout shot came at the end of a quiet frame and the crowd exploded when a massive right cross landed with sickening impact. Groves’ leg was trapped beneath him and the referee seemed caught between halting the bout immediately and letting it continue. When the challenger found his feet on unsteady legs that decision was easy to make.
Groves said, “Carl caught me with a great shot and fair play to him. I’ll come back stronger and hopefully I can get another world title shot. It’s back to the drawing board for me.”
Froch received unending criticism following his ninth-round stoppage of Groves in Manchester last year. The defending champion was floored in Round 1 and absorbed a savage beating before coming on late to hurt Groves, but a premature stoppage and an unsatisfactory ending generated public outrage.
The rematch was a natural and the result of it has wiped the slate clean for “The Cobra.”
Groves can come again. The Londoner is undoubtedly talented and despite two defeats to Froch he could still, at 26 years of age, have a very successful career. “The Saint” recently signed with German-based organization Sauerland Promotions, so quality bouts with the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Robert Stieglitz or Arthur Abraham are realistic and intriguing possibilities.
Next up for Froch could be a trip to Las Vegas with a potential bout against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. high on his list of priorities. Andre Ward is the only opponent on his resume that he hasn’t beaten, but that bout is constantly downplayed by Matchroom Promotions, due to what they perceive to be a lack of interest on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Carl Froch is one of the greatest British fighters ever,” said Eddie Hearn. “It’s time to give him that respect, because he produces each and every time he fights.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing