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The Cobra gets a charmed win over Groves in 9


Super middleweight George Groves, 19-1 (15) walked into the Phones 4U Arena (formerly the M.E.N. Arena) in Manchester, Lancashire to boos. When his first world title challenge against incumbent IBF and WBA champion Carl “The Cobra” Froch, 32-2 (23), was over, the only boos left emanating in the venue were reserved for fight’s end, which saw Froch get help from referee Howard John Foster, who stopped the fight with Groves on his feet and coming forward.
 
Coming into the bout, Groves was an undefeated 25-year-old challenger who wanted this bout more anything in the world. His confidence surged all through the promotion. Never mind he split with career-long trainer and manager Adam Booth heading into the bout. Groves showed no sign in the lead-up or during the fight of that ever mattering. His corner duties now assumed by Paddy Fitzpatrick, Groves started the fight exactly where he wanted to be: at center ring.

The fight was in bursts. Both men shot the jab at each other but Groves’ effort early on was the more powerful. He stuck it in Froch’s face in the first round and waited for a chance to land the two right hands he had promised early on. Groves did that as Froch was along the ropes. And as hard as they landed, Froch was not shaken. He steeled himself and set about further stalking Groves.
 
It was clear that the speed advantage was there for Groves. Younger at 25 to Froch’s 36 with less than a 100 rounds to Froch’s 231 coming in, Groves had the better reflexes and balance. Froch also had the experience and it would serve him well through the hard road ahead.
 
Froch was bullied back to the ropes in round one and caught Groves with a right uppercut coming in that caused the young man to back up. Sensing a late-round opportunity, Froch stepped forward into a left followed by a right that dropped his legs out from under him. 30 more seconds and this fight report would end with a few quotes about how amazing it was to knock out a champion like Froch so quickly.
 
But Froch looked salty and awake as he landed, grimacing at Groves and getting up quickly on shaky legs. The round ended with Groves giving two more flush right hands to consider at the bell.
 
The second round wasn’t the mop-up duty one might have expected. Froch used every veteran trick in the book to slow the pace while getting his pound of flesh one or two body punches at a time. He fought in bursts and Groves didn’t capitalize on how badly hurt he was mere minutes before and during parts of the second.
 
Groves showed his class throughout. He stuck the jab and kept Froch backing up all night. For his part, Froch fought sporadically, winging and whiffing big punches but always remembering to hammer the body or land that extra shot on the break. Froch was warned for rough tactics a couple times in the fight but overall, Foster’s warnings never deterred him from fighting like a veteran champion will when faced with a younger, faster, hard-hitting, relentless fighter.
 
Froch turned Groves’ youth on itself. Though Groves was out-quicking and out-boxing “The Cobra” throughout, you could see that after six rounds, though he’d been hammered and hurt a few times, Froch’s desire to win was still alive. He’d been here before with Jermain Taylor and won by knockout with seconds left in the bout. He was going to try for the late miracle after hammering at the kid’s ribs for awhile.
 
In the eighth, Froch had Groves rattled. The young man was swelling around the eyes and seemed to be tiring just a hair while Froch’s demeanor didn’t change. Relaxed, a little more passive than expected but gaining some steam, his punches still had meaning. His body wasn’t reddened like Groves’. Froch landed a hard shot that had Groves turn his back for a beat. The champion pounced and they were on the ropes with Froch’s forearm in Groves’ throat. The challenger seemed hurt but Foster stopped the action and admonished Froch, buying Groves valuable time. The eighth was a good round for Froch in a sea of bad stanzas.
 
The ninth and final round was a hotly-contested affair. Groves seemed to weaken but he was content to exchange, often landing on Froch, who absorbed the punches while looking for his own. The exchanges were furious with Froch refusing to be backed up. Froch got in a right that caught Groves high on the end, making his legs waver. Froch took aim and pounded another right through Groves’ jaw. He landed a hard right and hammered at Groves on the top of the head in a clinch. When Foster broke them, he continued to punch through. Froch was taking his time picking at Groves, who was not fully unraveled but revealing some loose threads but Groves had zero quit in him. He still semed to believe he would fight through this to victory, punching and moving forward.
 
Then it happened. As Groves walked forward, Foster called the fight off. As he did so, Froch hit Groves in the side twice more for good measure. Groves went crazy, asking why the bout had been stopped.
 
We’ll all be asking that for a long time. While we do, we’ll ponder the scorecards that saw the fight close at 76-75 (twice) and 78-73 for Groves. Maxboxing.com had it 78-73 at the time of the stoppage. The official time was 1:32 of the ninth.
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
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