The controversial ending to the recent IBF/WBA super middleweight title clash between defending champion Carl Froch and challenger George Groves has been a debating point since it's ninth round intervention by the third man in the ring, referee Howard Foster, at the Phones4U Arena in Manchester on Saturday, November 23.
There are two points of view…
Popular consensus dictates that excitable puncher George Groves did what he has done throughout his professional career… he boxed with precision, behind his accurate and pain-inflicting head-bound jab while attaching a seemingly never-missing straight right whenever the opportune moment arose. The knockdown he struck in the first round, scored with a hooking, chin-finding left followed by a powerful right, was strong enough to roll Froch's eyes into the back of his head and put him on his seat.
From then on, he didn't let his foot off the gas. He entered the ring to a cacophony of 20,000 booes but as he dominated the more experienced champion, he turned the jeers into cheers yet was denied going the distance by an over-exuberant referee who halted the fight at the first sign he was troubled.
The same troubles the referee allowed Froch to go through in the first round, when he was knocked down.
Groves said post-fight that his chinny reputation went against him, while the media image of Froch as a warrior must have been something Foster had in mind.
The other view is that Groves abandoned his tactics in the eighth and ninth round in order to plant his feet more and trade with gun-slinging slugger Froch. That he was beginning to gas, while Froch - a proven athlete who can go 12 rounds and is actually stronger in the second of the fight - was upping his work-rate as the bout headed toward the championship rounds.
Froch could have gone on to knock Groves out anyway so the referee spared George the trip to the hospital. And, with the fate suffered by Magomed Abdusalamov (in and out of a medically-induced coma since his November 2 loss to Mike Perez) and Frankie Leal (who died following brain injuries sustained in his loss to Raul Hirales in October), it is far better to err on the side of caution.
Football has members on both sides of the fence.
Arsenal star midfielder Jack Wilshere, who returned a memorable brace in his side's 2-0 trumping of Olympique Marseille on Tuesday, retweeted a number of messages posted by Londoner Groves on his social media account.
Truly gutted. I played my part and from what I've seen of the footage the ref made a terrible decision.. I will demand my rematch RT— George Groves (@StGeorgeGroves) November 24, 2013
Former Liverpool and Manchester United striker Michael Owen, though, sided with the winner, Froch, claiming that it is entrenched in British culture to celebrate sport's near-misses. And, in this case, Groves had gone so far, fought the fight of his life, only to lose to a man who has beaten every fighter he has faced except one, lineal favourite Andre Ward.
'We should celebrate winners, yet all we heard was a chorus of boos directed towards Froch as he spoke in the aftermath of his fight,' said Owen, in his column to Sport Lobster. 'Of course, there is inevitably going to be some frustration among the paying public because of the referee’s hasty decision, but to target frustrations at Froch was an utter disgrace.
'I can only attribute this type of behaviour to the way we are brought up in this country where we have a history of celebrating great sporting near misses.'
Owen, though, does not feel Groves' performance should be overlooked despite being on the losing side. He said: 'He fully deserved his standing ovation at the end of the fight and, as such, I do wonder why he was hated so much in the minutes leading up to the fight. Furthermore, I’d love to understand the mind-set of those people who slaughtered him during his ring entrance and then cheered him on his way out – there were plenty of them.'
Owen added: 'Of course we should celebrate George Groves, a youngster who we all hope has a great future at world level, but let’s also praise the person who should be receiving the vast majority of the plaudits – that is Carl Froch, the actual winner.'
image: © michael,kjaer