With the postponement of the David Haye vs. Tyson Fury clash, the burden of expectancy for a fight to appease the UK public has fallen squarely on the shoulders of English super middleweights Carl Froch and George Groves. They are set to fight on November 23 and already they have engaged in verbal sparring in a bid to gain any sort of psychological upper-hand.
With a great deal of scrutiny and attention for the fight, there is significant pressure to deliver. However, uncertainty remains as to one specific aspect of this fight – exactly how ready is George Groves for Carl Froch?
Some will accuse me of simply jumping to Groves’ recent split with former trainer Adam Booth as a means to suggest this fight is coming at too soon a point for him, but there is more reasoning behind my query.
One major element of this is the current level of George Groves in relation to an established world class fighter such as Froch. I need not list the names Froch has encountered, and mostly succeeded against, in recent years. It is a much harder job finding opponents of similar repute on Groves’ ledger.
This is understandable given that Groves is younger, and only a few years past what some might call professional boxing adolescence. However, although impressive stylistically and technically, tearing through Groves’ 2013 run does not inspire confidence ahead of such a huge challenge.
The likes of Dario Balmaceda, Baker Barakat and Noe Gonzalez Alcoba do not close to world class opposition. The last “live” fighter Groves happened to fight was Glen Johnson, and that was on the back of Johnson’s announcing his retirement in wake of a defeat to Andrzej Fonfara.
Groves handled the big time well when he beat James DeGale against the odds in 2011 but since then the fates have conspired to prevent him from facing similarly daunting challenges. This may be down to injury, promotional issues and even the reluctance of potential opponents, but the facts remain the same. And so we’ve still never received a conclusive answer to the question of whether George Groves a hot prospect or a genuine world class contender.
[Also See: Froch vs. Groves betting odds]
Another worrying speculation may be that Groves’ management team has suggested he use this fight as a method to break out. By dethroning the current but aging king of British boxing he would transform from cheeky young challenger to renowned star. This fight could establish Groves in the minds of the UK mainstream. Yet if this is the case, their judgement of Carl Froch’s boxing life-cycle is severely skewed.
Last year Froch walked through the highly regarded and undefeated long-time titleholder Lucian Bute. This year he rematched Mikkel Kessler and gained vengeance for a past defeat in a thrilling duel of experienced warriors.
Carl Froch may be aging, but there are no signs of slowing down. In fact, the trend has been one of upwards motion since his one-sided defeat to Andre Ward in 2011. For three fights Froch has looked irrepressible, and he’s enjoying his new found stardom too.
For Groves to claim victory here he won’t be out-gunning an old warhorse whose legs have weakened. He will have to go toe to toe with one of modern British boxing’s best, in his prime. The last time Froch was suggested to have reached a cross-roads he annihilated Bute in five rounds. It would be bold of Groves’ team to think Froch is at that juncture now.
Ultimately, I believe George Groves will become the owner of a world title at some stage in his career. And I don’t see that being too far down the road, either. But although talented, fresh and hugely promising, this fight could well prove a step too far, too soon.
Praise must be given to Groves to step up so dramatically and credit must go to Froch for accepting Groves’ challenge, but the spoils will as ever go to the victor, and on November 23 Carl Froch will rightly be favored to retain his titles.