Carl Froch’s greatest night: Weekend Review
Carl Froch: The best fighters find ways to win. Froch had his hands full with George Groves in their rematch before 80,000 on an historic night Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London, Groves' hometown. The 36-year-old veteran was eating jabs and some power shots, landing relatively few of his own punches and generally at a loss as to how to handle his young rival through four rounds. Then he attacked. And before we knew it Groves, the victim of an unforgettable right hand, was lying flat on his back, referee Charlie Fitch was waving his arms to end the fight and no one was using the word “controversy.” That's Froch, an adequate boxer but the ultimate warrior, one who has ridden toughness and unbreakable will to great heights over the past five or six years. Consider what he was up against Saturday: A younger, faster, more-proficient opponent who fared well in their first fight; an aging body that had been through so much; a stadium filled with fans rooting against him in what was billed as the biggest fight in the U.K. since World War II; and the knowledge that a loss probably would've signaled the end of his career as an elite fighter. And what did he do? He recorded perhaps the most important victory of his career with one of the most spectacular one-punch knockouts in recent memory. That's what you call a productive night. Moments after the knockout, the cameras caught Froch (33-2, 24 knockouts) smiling broadly as much from satisfaction as jubilation, I believe. He knew immediately that he had accomplished something special. And so did everyone who saw it.
What's next for Froch? James DeGale (19-1, 13 KOs) knocked out Brandon Gonzales (18-1-1, 10 KOs) in an IBF title eliminator on the Froch-Groves undercard, which makes him the No. 1 contender for Froch's title. That doesn't mean the fight will happen immediately, though. Froch seems to be more interested in a lucrative interim fight. The two names that keep popping up are Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Gennady Golovkin. Froch has said he'd like to fight in Las Vegas before he retires, which would make Chavez – a big attraction there – the perfect foe. Froch-Chavez would be a major event. A matchup with Golovkin would be fascinating but not as high-profile as a Chavez fight, which means it's less likely to happen. I like those fights for Froch, although both would be very difficult for different reasons. Chavez is similar to Froch in that he's not a great boxer but is resilient – he has his father's chin – and powerful. I believe Froch would win because he's the smarter fighter but he would have to work hard to get it done. Golovkin is much more skillful and would have more punching power than Froch even at 168 pounds, a weight at which he has never fought. The equalizer? Golovkin not only would be moving up in weight but he would be doing it against a true beast. That's a tough assignment. I believe Golovkin would win but, much like my perception of Bernard Hopkins, I wouldn't put anything past Froch. Froch vs. DeGale? Another tough matchup for Froch but it might look a lot like the fight on Saturday.
MOST IMPRESSIVE RUN
Froch's: Froch is at the stage of his career when you begin to ponder his place in history. I believe he's in the class of Nigel Benn, Joe Calzaghe, Chris Eubank, Naseem Hamed, David Haye (at cruiserweight) and Lennox Lewis among the best British fighters of the past few decades. Consider the opponents he has defeated since 2008: Groves (twice), Mikkel Kessler (to avenge an earlier defeat), Lucian Bute, Glen Johnson, Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor and Jean Pascal. Only the immensely talented Andre Ward beat him convincingly. That's a hell of a run, one that none of his countrymen listed above can match. None his victims could be described as great but every one of them – even an aging Johnson – stepped into the ring with Froch as an elite fighter. Such a gauntlet of opponents is rare these days. And his victory on Saturday gave him a record of 8-2 in major world title fights, further evidence of his success. I suspect some observers will scoff at the notion that Froch is among the best British fighters of the past 20 years or more because of his limited boxing skills. The object of the sport isn't to box beautifully, though; it's to win fights. That's what Froch does. And he has done it over and over again against good opposition on the biggest stages of the sport. He will be remembered as a winner – and one of better British fighters ever – no matter what happens from here on out.
George Groves: Too much was expected from Groves, who had a solid amateur background but only 20 pro fights and little experience in big events going into the rematch with Froch. He will have grown a great deal from the Froch fights, experience that will serve him going forward in what almost certainly will be a successful career. It's not easy to bounce back from back-to-back knockout losses, particularly one as devastating as the second one, though. Groves (19-2, 15 KOs) might be wise to come back in three or four months against a second-tier opponent to get back into the win column and rebuild any eroded confidence, which most likely was damaged by the traumatic setback. I believe the ability is there. We saw what we saw in two fights: a very good, well-schooled boxer with good punching power holding his own with a top-notch opponent until the sudden endings. He's obviously a good fighter. I think many will question Groves' toughness, as Froch seemed to break him down enough to create openings that would lead to the younger man's demise. I don't think it's fair to question his chin – that punch would've hurt anyone – but some will do so. Of course, time will tell what Groves is made of. The guess here is that he's a lot tougher – and determined – than some might believe. I think he'll wear more than one major belt before he's finished.
Donaire-Vetyeka: Say what you will about whether Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21 KOs) remains a pound-for-pound fighter; the man is fun to watch. That's why the premature ending to his fight against then-WBA featherweight titleholder Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-3, 16 KOs) was so disappointing. Donaire suffered a deep cut above his left eye from a headbutt in the first round, battled through it, knocked Vetyeka down in the fourth … and then it was over. Donaire won a technical decision and the title, but no one was satisfied, not even Donaire. I think it's clear we'll never again see the Donaire of a few years ago. That Donaire was faster, more active and (frankly) more effective. That doesn't mean this Donaire is a slouch. He remains a solid boxer, is busy enough to win rounds and still has that explosive power, as Vetyeka found out when he went down from a left hook. The “Filipino Flash” would pose a significant threat to anyone in a very deep division, including the talented Vetyeka in a rematch if that happens. So those who were disappointed that the fight on Saturday should take solace: We're going to see a lot more of Donaire in the near future.
Lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell (38-2, 28 KOs) blew it. He did his job in the ring on the Froch-Groves card, rallying to stop Ghislain Maduma (16-1, 10 KOs) in the 11th round of what was supposed to be an IBF title eliminator, but weight issues will preclude a shot at the championship. Mitchell on Friday made the 135-pound limit but overnight he gained two pounds more than the 10 allowed by IBF rules. Thus, he will be not become the mandatory opponent for titleholder Miguel Vazquez. … Middleweight Sam Soliman (44-11, 18 KOs) has become quite a story. The Aussie had been been a contender for about a decade but, as his 40th birthday approached, his time seemed to have passed. Then he stunned Felix Sturm (39-4-2, 18 KOs) by winning a unanimous decision in an IBF title eliminator last year only to test positive for an illegal stimulant, which rendered the fight a no-contest. No matter. He came back on Saturday and did it again – this time taking a one-sided decision – to win his first world title at 40. Never give up, kids. Sturm? I hesitate to write off a fighter with his ability but he has lost three of his last fives fights in the ring (counting the no-contest). The end might be near for the accomplished 35-year-old … The same might be true of little warrior Vic Darchinyan (39-7-1, 28 KOs). Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20 KOs) brutally stopped the former flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder in the fifth round, Darchinyan's second consecutive knockout loss. He was stopped by Donaire in nine rounds in November. The 38-year-old Armenian-Australian is now 2-4 in his last six fights, which might be a sign to move on. Keep an eye on Walters. The featherweight contender from Jamaica has fearsome power. … Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin (27-1, 19 KOs) bounced back from his one-sided loss to Wladimir Klitschko by stopping Manuel Charr (26-2, 15 KOs) in seven rounds Friday in Moscow.