Despite what was shaping up to be one of the best British sporting events of 2013, the world title fight between Carl Froch and George Groves ended in disgrace thanks to an early stoppage by referee Howard Foster.
Groves did the unthinkable in round one when he dropped the IBF and WBA Super-Middleweight champion Froch, and the challenger was comfortable from then on with only the odd moment of complacency marring a superb performance.
With his legs tiring in the ninth round, Carl Froch unleashed and caught Groves with heavy leather. No one, though, thought the 25-year-old was unable to defend himself, other than the referee and Froch, that is.
In a moment of madness, without giving Groves any chance of recovering, referee Foster grabbed the London boxer in what looked like a headlock to end the fight.
Before the bout, Froch was very much the crowd favourite. Those in attendance at the Phones 4u arena in Manchester cheered when the champion entered the building and booed when Groves was being introduced.
The noisy crowd expressed their anger at the decision with another chorus of boos post-fight and directed their disgust at the referee, which included less than savoury chants in his direction.
In huge contrast to the pre-fight mood, Groves was cheered after what was an unexpectedly excellent and gutsy performance in a very entertaining fight. The southerner won over what would have been a largely northern crowd, which is no small feat.
Froch, on the other hand, did the opposite. The favourite with bookies and the majority of fans before the bout and the more liked boxer saw his personal reputation dismantled.
During the bout, Froch was warned about the use of his forearm during the eighth round and the referee from Doncaster, who had called for both boxers to break, was forced to warn Froch when the Midlander continued in his attack on Groves. A clear act of desperation from the champion as he attempted to turn the tide but now the fans were beginning to change their opinion of The Cobra.
It was his words, not his boxing, however which angered the crowd and viewers at home most.
In his post-fight interview the 36-year-old defended the referee's decision. Long-time fans of Froch would have been more disappointed than angry with his interview, which is always worse.
Froch said in the post-fight TV interview: "George had his head low and I had a free shot and the referee had a split-second decision to make. It was dangerous and he had to put the safety of the fighter first."
His words were met by more boos and the man from Nottingham received heavy criticism for his defense of the decision. The only redeeming feature of the interview was when he expressed his desire for a rematch.
"Let's have a rematch [against Groves] and sort it out," said Froch.
Froch managed to go from pre-fight favourite among the fans and in terms of ability to being booed by the crowd because of an awful display of public relations and some questionable actions in the ring.
Groves went from an underdog being jeered by a partisan crowd to being cheered by all corners of the arena. His stock has elevated to the point where he will likely be favourite if and when the pair do eventually meet in a rematch.
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