Froch v Groves II

Froch V Groves 2 Unfinished Business

I felt like the luckiest man on earth last week after my mate Si told me he’d won tickets to the eagerly anticipated rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves at Wembley Stadium and that he wanted me to go with him!

Their first fight in Manchester last November was spectacular and highly controversial with the underdog Groves knocking down the durable but often exposed Froch in the first round, going on to dominate him for almost all of the next eight rounds before the referee Howard Foster called an end to the bout in the ninth round, awarding Froch a TKO victory after he’d executed his first and only period of sustained pressure in the whole fight on the tenacious Groves who seemed to have enough in him to continue. Many thought the stoppage premature and ultimately in January the IBF order the rematch between the pair or Froch would be stripped of his title.

Needless to say, being a big boxing fan and with this being the biggest fight held in Britain for a long, long time, I was always going to say yes …provided I could get permission from the missus! Luckily being the fantastic wife that she is (and probably happy to get me out of her hair for the night) she let me go and we were able to start making plans.

We only found out for sure that we’d got the tickets a few days before the event and having taken a cursory glance at the hotel prices, it quickly became apparent that the most financially viable and most straightforward option was to catch a direct coach from the nearby town of Chesterfield which dropped us off right outside the stadium and which was scheduled to leave 45 minutes after the main event had finished to bring us back.

Si’s girlfriend Sally drove us from Belper to Chesterfield and having arrived around an hour before we were scheduled to depart we had time for a couple of pints at the Portland Hotel near the coach station. The journey down to the stadium was quite comfortable with plenty of spare seats and room, although the coach did lack toilet facilities; it went pretty quickly as we’d bought a few cans of lager and I’d downloaded the first fight on my phone to watch.

This was my first visit to either the old or new Wembley Stadium and the first thing that hit me when we arrived, other than its sheer size, was the desolate and undeveloped area in which it is situated, especially in comparison to somewhere like the O2 Arena. That said, the stadium itself is a sight to behold, an impressive feat of engineering and architectural brilliance.

Wembley Stadium

When we disembarked the coach we noticed that the majority of the crowd was heading towards a pub at the far end of the coach park towards Wembley Way, despite there being a bar called the Crystal Club considerably closer, just a short walk over the road; it didn’t look quite as nice as the other place but weighing that up against the likely queues for drinks, we opted for the closer option. It seemed to be a mistake when upon approaching we noticed a small scuffle in the front ‘beer garden’ and when we got inside, getting to and from the bar was mayhem.

So we did the only thing we could do, battled our way to the front of the bar and ordered two pints each to save us having to go back. The bar staff advised us that they were now opening the rear ‘beer garden’; we were right not to be optimistic when it turned out to be an area of the bars car park with some temporary fencing around it.

We took our time with our beers, chatted some more about the fight before grabbing a bite too eat from one of the hundreds of fast food stands; we then headed into the stadium to take our seats in good time for the preliminary fights to start. The seats were fantastic, right on the halfway line in the lower tier, with a slightly elevated view of the ring. Whilst there are benefits to being ringside of course, particularly in as large a venue as this where the stands are some distance from the ring, I much prefer to watch a fight from a slightly higher angle using the various screens to enhance the action when necessary and so these seats were perfect. A couple of days before the fight similar seats were available to buy online for just over £1,000! With the seats came access to improved bar, toilet and food facilities meaning we spent much less time in queues than we could have.

The fights began just as dusk started to fall, the stadium was about a quarter full but filling quickly and there was a huge buzz of anticipation in the air. First up was Olympic gold medal winner Anthony Joshua who started the night’s proceedings in spectacular fashion knocking out his opponent Matt Legg with a right uppercut within a minute and half of the very first round to improve his recorded as a professional to 6-0.

The next fight saw Jamie McDonnell from Doncaster win the WBA World Bantamweight title, stopping his durable and experienced opponent Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat with a left hook in the 10th round.

In the third fight of the evening, a title eliminator for the IBF Lightweight belt, Kevin Mitchell showed real grit and determination to beat Canadian Ghislain Maduma late in the 11th round via doctor stoppage when behind on the judges’ scorecards to set up a potential showdown with current champion Miguel Vazquez.

By this point the stadium was practically full and night had almost fallen, the final bout before Froch and Groves step into the ring saw 2008 Olympic gold medallist James DeGale in another title eliminator against Brandon Gonzales, this time for the IBF Super-Middleweight belt. His dominant performance, lead to a fourth round stoppage which means that he’ll likely face the winner of tonight’s main event in his next fight.

With 30 minutes to go before the fighters made the entrances to the ring we headed off to grab a last couple of beers before the big fight began, only to find all of the bars closed …apparently they’d ran out of beer! Things went from bad to worse when I paid £5 for a hotdog only to find out there was no HP Sauce in the whole of  Wembley Stadium. Si and I consoled ourselves by buying a couple of T-shirts and made our way back to our seats ready for the action to begin.

…and what a way to start, the lights go down and the screens around the stadium display a countdown from ten, the capacity crowd shouting along in unison, thousands of camera phones providing a backdrop like a starry night; as the countdown reaches zero, the one and only Michael Buffer appears beneath a spotlight in the centre of the ring. He announces the first fighter, the challenger from London, England George ‘The Saint’ Groves who appears from the near left corner of the stadium on top of a red double decker bus to rapturous applause from his many thousands of local supporters, before he makes his way swiftly to the ring looking extremely focused.

Next it was the turn of the champion IBF and WBA Super-Middleweight title holder from Nottingham, England Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch who despite the pyrotechnics, lights, lasers and loud music, makes a significantly more relaxed and subdued approach to the ring; having kept his opponent waiting for a couple of minutes, do doubt in an effort to gain any sort of psychological edge.

With both fighters in the ring it was back once again to the inimitable Michael Buffer for those legendary words “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”

I was supporting Froch as Nottingham is just a short drive away and he does a lot for the Autism charity NORSACA, however I wasn’t a entirely convinced that he was going to come out on top of what was sure to be a gruelling encounter, the younger Groves seemed to have the distinct edge over his much older opponent in the first fight, his right hand getting through the champions lax defence almost at will. Froch’s style often leaves him exposed and he relies upon his proven toughness and solid chin to drag opponents into deep waters where, if they lack sufficient cardio or expel too much energy early on, he can take advantage. That said, I think Froch may have taken Groves lightly in their first fight and under-trained. I figured Groves was going to push the pace early just as he did the first time around, if Froch could box clever and avoid serious damage for the first few rounds his stamina would give him the edge later on as Groves did seemed to be fading quickly during that 9th round in their first bout. I placed a bet on Froch in the 7th whilst Si went for Froch in the 9th.

The early rounds proved to be a lot closer and more competitive than before but Groves probably took the first four due to the sheer volume of significant punches he landed, using his right hand to counter effectively. Froch kept a cool head though, steering clear of any real danger and began to pick things up a gear in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds, Groves begin to show indiscipline veering from the game plan that’s worked to such brilliant effect thus far in both fights, going toe to toe with the veteran, getting busted up and hurt on a couple of occasions by doing so.

With the scorecards probably being very close he was still in the fight heading into the 8th round and he began the round looking refocused and was again finding success with his jab, unfortunately for him Froch was waiting for the opportunity to throw a huge haymaker and when he found it, the right hand landed perfectly on the jaw of Groves sending him crashing to the canvas, completely knocked out with his left leg sticking out awkwardly to the side there was no way he wa beating the count and the referee called an end to the fight. Groves woke up after a few seconds and eventually got to his feet, but there was no dispute this time as Carl Froch retained his belts and won what was undoubtedly the biggest fight of his career to date.

Carl Froch v George Groves 2 Knockout

Picture courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk

Whilst Groves once again deserves credit for his performance and he has plenty of time to make his mark on the world stage, Froch proved that at this point in his career, when he’s focused then he is on a different level.

The journey home was relatively uneventful, there was a slight delay in departing and it seem to take an age but we eventually made it back to Chesterfield where Sally was waiting to take us back to Belper.

A big thank you to Si Gregory who made all this possible, Sally Forder for providing the best taxi service ever, my wife Claire for allowing me to go and National Express who not only provided the transport to and from Wembley but also were the competition organisers who Si won the tickets from; this was an experience that I’ll never forget and will treasure forever.

Stu and Si Froch v Groves 2

Share this article

One Comment on Froch v Groves II

  1. Geoff
    June, 8th 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Cracking read, very evocative… I feel transported back in time and space and with you at the fight.

Leave a Reply