- Carl Froch v George Groves II
One for the 'I was there' collection
To think some had suggested that boxing was a dying sport in the UK.
As 80,000 fanatical fans invaded the iconic Wembley Stadium for an event that was as thrilling as it was bemusing, as compelling as it was confusingly captivating, boxing confirmed once and for all that it holds a unique place in the hearts of the British sporting public.
While defending world champion Carl Froch has proved time and again that he deserves his status as one of the finest in his weight division, many outside of the UK would struggle to pick challenger George Groves out of an identity parade. Yet for those who had paid up to £1,500 to be here on the big night, such reality mattered little.
Froch stops Groves with thunderous knockout
- Carl Froch gave a champion's performance to knock George Groves out in the eighth round of their highly anticipated world title rematch at Wembley Stadium.
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Few here at Wembley would argue that the combatants Froch and Groves are the greatest or even the most popular fighters to have hailed from these shores, but the presence of this monstrous crowd at a venue that only opens its doors to this sport for special events confirmed that they will forever be a part of an occasion that has the 'I was there' tag attached for those present.
The noise echoing around a sell-out stadium confirmed that this was the match-up that got the boxing juices flowing for the British public once more. Wembley was the only venue fit to hold a showdown that was so brilliantly promoted and expertly stage-managed by promoters who whipped the viewing millions into a frenzy.
This had become the event of the London sporting summer and as the clock ticked over to 9.49pm you could sense that something special was about to unfold. This was a crowd here to enjoy itself, determined to be part of a show that was eagerly anticipated ever since the thrilling first meeting between the duo was stopped in controversial circumstances, in Froch's favour, last November.
While local boy Groves clearly had the majority of the crowd on his side, Froch had his army of supporters down from Nottingham to back their man.
The challenger's ring walk as theatrical as you might expect in a fight of this magnitude. His first appearance in front of the Wembley crowd came atop a red London bus, with fireworks and flames following him to the ring and heightening the electricity rippling around this rocking arena.
Froch's entrance was much more low key, some would say more business-like. He chose just to walk to the ring accompanied by booming music from Queen, with his attitude clearly suggesting he was here to do a job and not take part in a pantomime.
The fight for Froch's WBA and IBF world super middleweight title belts felt like it could be in danger of being a sideshow, with those crammed into the Wembley press box visibly as excited as those in the stands. This was an event that had already delivered before a punch was thrown.
The fight itself did not initially live up to the preamble, with Groves afraid to put himself in the firing line and Froch content to snipe at his rival with bursts of shots and an increasingly impressive jab. Yet the defending champion finished the fight in grand manner with an eighth round haymaker punch that would have knocked out any fighter in the world.
There may have been contention over the manner of the stoppage in their first fight, but the referee called off this battle before he started his count, with Groves' legs tangled under him as he struggled to regain his senses on the canvas. This fight was over, no doubt about it.
The glitter cannons fired a final salvo to round off a night that was, until the final fight drama, more memorable for its pomp and ceremony than it was for its sporting centre-piece. Yet the knock-out blow that ended this brief and bitter rivalry once and for all will be remembered for many years to come, and not just by the victim on the end of it.
Some jeered Groves at the end for a performance that suggested the young challenger may have been overawed by the occasion, yet surely that was harsh. Both warriors had whipped the nation into a frenzy for this battle and while one had to accept being the loser, the scrap everyone demanded had delivered a memorable end after eight hard-fought rounds.
So Froch's reign as world champion continues and with such a conclusive victory to his credit, there will be no clamour for a third fight between these two. The Cobra, to use the Nottingham fighter's nickname, may now try and fulfil his dream of fighting in Las Vegas, while his youthful challenger may be forced to accept that his moment in the spotlight is over.
When fight fans come to look back at this night, many are bound to conclude that it was the fight that put boxing back on the British sporting map. Those of us present to witness it can say we were a part of something very special.