If you thought the Premier League was a sporting mind games haven thanks to the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, you may be interested in the latest rumblings to come from the preparations for Carl Froch’s huge boxing rematch against George Groves.
The two British super-middleweights are set to clash a second time in front of a record-breaking crowd of nearly 80,000 at Wembley Stadium on May 31, after their first bout in Manchester last November saw Froch claim a controversial stoppage win.
The two men clearly do not think very highly of each other, with the before, during and after of setting up their huge return fight being filled with verbal jousts and attempts to wind up the other.
The latest bout of shenanigans has seen Groves’ trainer Paddy Fitpatrick speak out against what he perceives as dirty tactics Froch employs in bouts, which he says could KILL an opponent.
Fitzpatrick told Telegraph Sport on Monday: “I am extremely concerned about the fouling of Carl Froch in this fight. We need a strong referee to prevent what he has always done.
“When he gets emotionally involved, he fouls with shots behind the head, he uses rabbit punches and he barges into his opponent with his shoulder and forearm. Barging a man in the shoulder I can live with.”
Last week, Froch and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, rejected American referee Jack Reiss, known as a strict official in the ring.
Fitzpatrick added: “I said ‘Yes’ to [ref] Jack Reiss and they said ‘No’. People said he didn’t do a good job when Andre Ward fought Mikkel Kessler, as he missed headbutts, but there’s a difference between someone doing a deliberate headbutt and someone using their head in an old-school manner and not making it obvious.”
He continued: “When Froch is frustrated, he wants to assert himself. But hitting repeatedly on the back of the head can kill a man. Hitting a dude in the nuts will hurt him, but it won’t kill him.
“Hitting a man on the back of the head is dangerous stuff. We have seen fighters badly injured from falling and hitting their neck on the bottom rope. They’re never the same again. This is a big deal to me and a major concern, and it was one I brought up before the first fight.”
In the first fight, referee Howard Foster appeared to give Froch plenty of lee-weigh when Groves knocked him down in the first round and put him under pressure in round six, only to physically pull the challenger out and award it to ‘The Cobra’ as soon as Groves was in trouble himself in round nine.
While the premature ending left the live crowd and many pay-per-view fans outraged, months of talk from both parties since about having a ‘fair’ official for the second fight appear to be exaggerated.
Firstly, the inconsistency in Foster’s judgement in Manchester could easily be put down to a simple case of reputations – Froch has built a legacy as one of the world’s toughest men over years of world title fights, whereas Groves came into his first championship crack as an unknown entity and surprised more than just Froch with the quality of his showing early on.
Expect talk of another dubious officiating performance to be just that – and for Froch and Groves to finally find a clear winner in the biggest British fight of the 21st century so far at Wembley.
Today George Groves was confirmed as the latest boxer to sign for Sauerland Promotions. The home of previous Froch opponent Mikkel Kessler - the first man to defeat Carl as a professional - has also signed English heavyweight David Price this year.
Groves had jumped ship from Frank Warren to join Froch at Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing, before leaving after a few months.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe
- Sports & Recreation
- George Groves
- Carl Froch