Finally, thankfully, the rematch is on! On May 31st at an as yet undecided venue, Carl Froch and George Groves will meet once more in British boxing’s biggest fight in decades. It’s been almost three months since the pair laced up and faced off on a wild night in Manchester. Still, it doesn’t feel so long ago that I, along with many other boxing fans and writers, were sat wide-eyed, confused and elated at what we had just seen, as Froch turned around an horrific start to controversially stop Groves with referee Howard Foster’s much-debated interjection.
Time has since moved quickly as the buzz from the original clash has reverberated around sporting media ever since, with twists and turns in the script as to the plausibility of a rematch. The Froch vs. Groves rematch word of mouth has been incessant, keeping a second bout in the minds of every boxing fan.
Regardless of your views on the first fight, the ending or how it would have otherwise ended had it carried on, the common denominator was that we all wanted to see it again. Well, here we have it, and the case for both men is compelling.
Groves went into the clash last November as a clear underdog. Many, including myself, saw Froch walking through his young “heir apparent” within the scheduled distance. Groves’ constant public haranguing of Froch seemed at times deluded, though his performance on fight night confirmed his talk was part of the strategy.
Having entered to boos, he left to cheers as the partisan crowd rallied round the Londoner in courageous defeat. He executed his tactics to a tee, up until the final moments. His undefeated record, like it or not, is gone. He is yet to hold a world title. On paper, at least, his initial title challenge ended in failure. He was dented by the defeat, though emotionally he will be resurgent in trying to justify the claims that his being stopped was wrong, and that he truly is the better man.
Froch suffered a small ego battering in the aftermath of his win. His experience was asymmetrical to Groves’ – he entered to cheers and left to boos. The crowd’s reaction will have disappointed “the Cobra” – he has always prided himself on giving entertainment to his adoring public, and he will have felt their reaction, even if it wasn’t a fair reflection of what he gave them in a thrilling and dangerous fight.
Having previously been seen as the king of British boxing, the man who feared no-one and took on everyone, Froch endured derision like he has probably not faced before in his career and his back will be firmly up going into the return. Froch will want to stamp his mark on this rivalry by annulling all question marks regarding the first fight’s ending and replacing them with emphatic full stops second time around.
Both Froch and Groves shipped plenty of punishment on November 23rd, 2013, and both men will also have psychological issues to air regarding the outcome of that bout. As they put pen to paper on the contracts yesterday the wounds from their first fight were still raw and yet to fully heal. The resentment each man feels for the other is palpable. As they enter their respective training camps the feeling of one another’s punches will be fresh in the memory.
May 31st is likely to be an emotionally charged night for Carl Froch and George Groves. The titles on the line and money in the pocket will pale in significance when considering what really matters in this high stakes game of boxing rivalries – the opportunity for both men to say “I beat you” for the rest of their lives.