The Pugilist

No matter what Froch claims, a Groves rematch is all up to him

All debate over the finish aside, Carl Froch v George Groves back in November was an absolute belter.

An all-British, world title belter, with a genuine pay-per-view audience to boot. Both of those things are rarities these days on our shores.

I personally have it neck-and-neck with Darren Barker’s storybook IBF middleweight title win over Daniel Geale as the best fight of 2013 from a British perspective.

Perhaps one of the best things about Froch-Groves was how it came from out of nowhere.

Many people expected a mis-match. Despite Matchroom’s gallant attempts to really hype it, most fight fans regarded it as ‘The Cobra’ making a routine defence of his IBF and WBA super-middleweight straps before targeting a big rematch with Andre Ward this year.

The heated words exchanged by the two Brits ended up helping the fight sell, in the end. Many readers will state their disdain for ‘blatantly put-on’ handbags between boxers about to fight, but the numbers prove such antics put more rear ends in seats – and if it works, it’ll keep happening.

At the end of the Manchester fight in November, many felt they had been launched back into the ‘good old days’ of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.

A fantastic domestic fight, iced with a controversial outcome and lingering issues between the two, had tons of fans clamouring for a rematch.

Whether they felt Groves was short-changed or Froch did enough for a fair stoppage, both sides of the debate were in agreement over one thing: Froch v Groves was tasty, and they wanted seconds.

However, it is at this juncture that the fabulous downside of professional boxing rears its ugly head.

Froch provoked the waving of several red flags as early as the post-fight interviews. The champion was in full flow, defending referee Howard Foster’s stoppage and hinting that he’d be moving onto new challengers, until the Manchester Arena rung out with boos in response.

Carl quickly changed tack, and in an unnaturally-loud, crowd-pleasing tone, vowed to strive towards granting Groves a rematch, after all.

That got the crowd cheering for him again, as they had before the sizzling nine-round slugfest began.

Unfortunately, there’s every reason to believe that the approval of the fanbase was all Froch was after when he performed that mid-interview 180.

Things came to a head on Friday when a statement arrived on the Eurosport desk from Carl Froch, via Matchroom:

“Yesterday (Thursday), we made a seven figure offer to George Groves for a second fight that would have seen him earn around double that of the first.

“Disappointingly, George rejected this offer so we are continuing our talks with Top Rank and HBO regarding Julio Chavez Jnr.

“I understand the demand for the Groves fight in the UK, but also the demand in the US for the Chavez fight. Talks are ongoing and no doubt some further news will break soon.

“I’m happy to fight anyone, as I have done throughout my entire career.”

With a possible implication that Groves simply didn’t want the return fight, it did not take ‘Saint’ George long to issue a rebuttal via Hayemaker:

"I am unsure why Carl Froch has released a statement implying I do not wish to take the fight, as I was under the impression we are still in negotiations.

"The Matchroom offer in question came with many stipulations and options I felt were unsatisfactory. I am currently awaiting an improved offer from his promoter, as well as speaking to other promoters interested in promoting this fight."

When a builder or decorator does not fancy taking on a job put in front of them, they often price themselves out of it. Why? Because flat-out refusing to accept the task would damage their reputation, and in turn their earning potential.

If they make sure the potential customer is the one who rejects the estimate, they can side-step an unfancied job and preserve their image in the process.

I’m not implying Froch is afraid of Groves, by any means – his record for taking on the toughest possible challenges is impeccable.

But we must remember that Froch discredited Groves as a worthy challenger at every opportunity before, during and after their first bout was signed.

He avenged his defeat against Mikkel Kessler, and he wants to try and avenge his only other defeat to Andre Ward. It so happened that he needed an opponent before Ward would possibly be available, thanks to lengthy injury woes.

A quick demolition job on a domestic rival he had publicly exchanged words with in the build-up appeared to be a low-risk yet lucrative stop-gap.

Only, it wasn’t low-risk at all. Groves surprised the world that night in Manchester, and won over the live crowd in the process.

Given that Froch has only ever pursued second fights against boxers who got the decision over him the first time around, it’s fair to say he likely regards giving those he beat another shot as having little gain for himself.

Especially when the fighter in question put him to the canvas in the first round, and was granted far less leeway from the official when in trouble than Froch himself was in rounds one and six.

The pendulum appeared to swing in Groves’ favour as the story took yet another twist later that day, with the IBF responding to the Londoner’s appeal against the stoppage by ordering a rematch.

Chairman Lindsey Tucker said Froch has 90 days from January 24 to sort out a rematch, or risk being stripped of the IBF belt with Groves all but certain to be involved in the fight to crown a new titlist.

Here’s the problem with that: If the above events have proven one thing, it’s that Froch (understandably) cherishes his reputation as a fearless warrior much more than one of two world titles he currently holds, and one of four he will forever be recognised as winning.

Not only that, but Froch came fairly close to being stripped before when he opted against stepping into the ring with mandatory challenger Adonis Stevenson, who responded to the snub by stepping up to light-heavyweight and becoming one of the hottest world champions of 2013.

It’s hard to believe Froch would shed a tear if the IBF follow through on their threat this time around.

There will always remain a glimmer of hope that the two will square off once again down the line, and Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn has big dreams of filling Wembley Stadium for what would no doubt be the biggest all-British boxing event of the 21st century so far.

But no matter what he claims in statements or on television, there is only one man with the power to make sure Froch fights Groves a second time – and that’s Carl himself.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe