• Steve Bunce

Froch v Groves showed why boxing is no 'Sweet Science'

Steve Bunce November 26, 2013
Both Carl Froch and George Groves have overwhelming support for their individual claims following their controversial world title bout © Getty Images

An ancient tale.

In 1949 the American writer AJ Leibling called boxing the Sweet Science in his iconic book of the same name. Lovely words but he got that wrong.

There was nothing sweet and certainly no science involved in last weekend's world title fight in Manchester. Boxing is simply a brutal business where two men are pushed to extremes and the other man in the ring has to make split second decisions.

Mistakes can be made by boxers and referees and they can be costly - men die, reputations end and glory is denied.

Bobby Frankham and Julian Monville both made dreadful and life-changing mistakes at the end of their fights. They lost, blamed the referee and were banned for attacking him. They were each banned for life and it meant life.

The American light-welter Zab Judah was suspended and fined after he threw a corner stall at the referee when his world title fight against Kotsya Tszyu was stopped. Judah was on his feet but out of his head at the point of the stoppage and fine 30 seconds later.

Late last year former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli was on his feet but under early pressure when his fight with Ovil McKenzie was stopped prematurely. It was an error, a bad call by a good referee and in August they met again. On that occasion, after a fantastic fight, McKenzie needed rescuing from his own bravery. There was nothing sweet or scientific about either fight.

George Groves has overwhelming support for his claim that his fight against Carl Froch was stopped too early last Saturday in Manchester. He claims that the referee failed to look in his eyes correctly and that the referee was influenced by Froch's reputation as a great finisher. His more serious claims will not be repeated here.

Carl Froch has overwhelming support for his claim that had the fight continued he would have knocked out Groves at some point in the remainder of the ninth round. He claims that Groves was 'gone', which is not a medical term but is the one we use most often in boxing to describe a hurt fighter's condition.

If boxing was a science then both Groves and Froch would be able to prove that they are right and the heated arguments about the fight's conclusion could be settled rationally. It is not and the debate will rage on with petitions planned, complaints pending and announcements expected.

There are plenty of 'ifs' and 'buts' attached to the way the fight was terminated by Howard Foster, the referee. There are dozens of neutral experts that are divided in their interpretation of the ending; I have never heard such extreme views at the end of a fight.

There are also, it seems, millions of instant experts with no qualification other than a Twitter account, a ticket stub for the fight and a receipt for pay-per-view, which combine to give them, so they believe, the right to scream and holler.

Now that the dust has settled all of the claims from Saturday night are thankfully being looked at again. The process of assessment will hopefully lead to some honesty: Groves will see that he does stumble, Froch will note that he is not landing as many punches as he first suggested and Foster will question his positioning at the moment he lunged in to end the fight. It should lead to some rational debating and serve as a reminder of just how fast the action is and how there is very little science involved. It is certainly not sweet, that is for sure.

Boxing is a business where the good, the bad and the ugly have to find a way to exist. It is not always pretty but it is, trust me, always honest. Even a mistake can be an honest mistake.

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Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.