5 Ways Froch vs. Groves II Will Change British Boxing
When promoter Eddie Hearn postulated that Carl Froch vs. George Groves II will be the "biggest fight in British boxing history," per The Telegraph, he raised more than a few skeptical eyebrows amongst the sport's cognoscenti.
However, when the initial 60,000 tickets sold out almost immediately, his words gained credibility. You now have to expect that the remaining 20,000 seats will be snapped up for what will be a post-war attendance record for boxing.
The all-time record of 90,000 for Len Harvey vs. Jack Petersen came during the 1930s when the advent of huge stadia made such crowds possible for the first time.
Post-war, the popularisation of television dampened live crowds, and May's rematch will be the best-ever U.K. crowd for a televised boxing match. In general, fans have realised that they'll get a much better view watching at home than in the cheaper seats at a football stadium.
Even mass-appeal fights like Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler and David Haye vs. Dereck Chisora, which sold well, were still some distance from packing out the Millennium Stadium and Upton Park, respectively.
It is therefore slightly incredible that so many people are willing to pay good money to sit a long way from the action at the cavernous Wembley Stadium. It is a testament to the pull of this fight that fans just want to be there live.
Everyone in British boxing will be studying this mega-event in the hope of replicating its success. Here are five ways that Froch vs. Groves II will change the game in the U.K.
1. Pay-Per-View Is Here to Stay
After David Haye's fights against Audley Harrison and Wladimir Klitschko disappointed fans, along with technical problems for the latter, Sky Sports announced in 2011 that it would no longer put boxing on pay-per-view.
That didn't last all that long, and the PPV premium returned last year for Carl Froch vs. Mikkel Kessler II and then Froch vs. Groves.
Few people begrudged Froch the payday against Kessler after Froch vs. Lucien Bute had aired on regular Sky Sports. However, Froch vs. Groves was initially seen as a tough sell because it was expected to be a one-sided fight.
However, the pre-fight hype and the evident dislike between the two men won fans over, and although official figures were never released, Eddie Hearn told Boxing News that "the Pay-Per-View numbers are much bigger than Kessler."
It was therefore inevitable that Froch vs. Groves II would be a Sky Box Office fight. The question is what the threshold will now be for a pay-per-view bout because the surprisingly good takings from Froch vs. Groves create the temptation to put lesser fights on pay-per-view.
Time will tell as to what qualifies as a PPV fight, but don't expect to see a fight like Froch vs. Bute on regular Sky Sports again in a hurry.
The winner of Froch vs. Groves will consider himself a PPV fighter in the way that Amir Khan and David Haye have been—even weaker fights like Khan vs. Dmitriy Salita and Haye vs. John Ruiz were on Box Office.
Hearn has kept on the good side of fans so far as a promoter, but if he were to put a fight the equivalent of Froch vs. Yusaf Mack on the premium channel, that could cause a backlash.
The certain thing is that PPV, for better or worse, is back for good.
2. Matchroom Boxing Is No. 1
Ever since Hearn turned full time to boxing promoting, he has been in competition with Frank Warren for the mantle of the U.K.'s top promoter.
Hearn was able to secure an exclusive contract with Sky Sports, partially due to the existing relationship between the broadcaster and Matchroom from darts and pool.
Matchroom has succeeded in luring top fighters from other promoters, such as Froch from Hennessy Sports and Ricky Burns from Frank Warren. As a result, Hearn now has a strong stable of fighters.
But despite the general progress made by him, Froch vs. Groves II will be the first genuinely huge event he has promoted.
The last one in the U.K. was Haye vs. Chisora, which Warren managed to bring to BoxNation with a little help from the Luxembourg boxing commission.
Now when the eyes of the British public turn to boxing on May 31, Hearn and Matchroom will get the attention.
Hearn pulled off a big coup in signing both the British male 2012 Olympic gold medalists—Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell. Young fighters who see his ability to put on a show at Wembley Stadium will continue to be attracted to his ranks.
Even so, it would be foolish to write Warren off because he is the great survivor of British boxing. Groves, who has worked with Warren before, is still a free agent, and he is the kind of signing who could fuel a riposte from the longtime supremo.
3. More All-British Fights
If you had predicted before the first fight that Froch vs. Groves II would go off at Wembley Stadium in front of upwards of 80,000 people, you would have been laughed out of the building.
But such is the appeal of a competitive, top-level British clash with just that enticing bit of needle between the two men.
Despite fighting for years all around the globe in tough world-title fights, Froch is expected to make by far his best career payday against the upstart from Hammersmith. Although he initially wanted to fight his next fight in the U.S. against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Froch was eventually won over by the domestic demand for the rematch.
The runaway success of this fight will create greater incentives for promoters to deliver more of the big all-British fights that could be made.
Eddie Hearn is a quick learner and has already offered Amir Khan $5 million to face Kell Brook. Whilst he would do well to steer clear of mismatches like Haye vs. Harrison, there are plenty of viable fights out there.
In the past, promoters have often thought it better to have domestic rivals build their profiles against international opponents, so that their eventually clash would be a bigger fight down the line.
Tyson Fury vacated the British heavyweight title rather than face David Price in what could have been a record purse for both men. But after Price lost twice to Tony Thompson, there is now much less money in that one.
Groves hadn't really earned a shot at Froch, but he was thrown in and performed well enough to force this rematch.
From now on, expect promoters to be less cagey and more eager to make the domestic dustups that fans want to see.
4. A Star Will Be Born
The huge attention and audience expected for Froch vs. Groves II will create opportunities for fighters on the undercard to make a name for themselves.
George Groves knows this after building up his profile on David Haye's big events—in particular Haye vs. Harrison, when his exciting bout with Kenny Anderson stole the show.
The early word is that the plum spot will go to Kevin Mitchell (pictured), who is tipped to fight for a legitimate world title against Miguel Vazquez in the lightweight division.
This is a slightly surprising move by Eddie Hearn because Mitchell has failed at the highest level against Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns. You might expect the promoter to try to push one of his younger charges into the limelight instead.
Perhaps Hearn has seen something behind the scenes that makes him believe Mitchell is in a better place and can upset the formidable Vazquez.
This card might come too early for Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua to make their mark, but it would be interesting if either IBF bantamweight champion Stuart Hall or previous champ Jamie McDonnell (who didn't lose the belt in the ring) were to get a showcase.
They aren't well-known, but they are knocking on the door of world class and deserve a chance to make a name for themselves in the unfashionable bantamweight division.
More out of left field is the idea that James DeGale could fight on the undercard. A fight between him and either the winner or loser of Froch vs. Groves would be big, and it's never too early to put the hype machine into motion.
This is a bill that all up-and-coming fighters would like to be seen on, and expect someone to make his name on the night.
5. More Stadium Fights
It bears repeating that the demand for tickets for this fight is astonishing. At the end of the day Andre, Ward will still be the No. 1 fighter in the super-middleweight division after May 31.
Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler attracted 50,000 for a genuine world-title fight when the Millennium Stadium could have held thousands and thousands more.
In theory, holding the fight at Wembley rather than a more intimate stadium like the Emirates should have reduced demand, but it seems to have done the opposite. The size of the venue is reinforcing perceptions as to the magnitude of the fight.
It is reminiscent of the way a film like Avatar attracted people to see it just because it was the most expensive film of all time. People wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
You don't need to be a psychoanalyst to see how much Eddie Hearn is enjoying life on the big stage. He must already be thinking of how he can repeat the trick.
Whether or not the appeal of this fight is a one-off aberration or a sign of things to come is hard to judge, and ultimately only promoters know the exact appeal of their offerings once tickets go on sale.
It will be interesting to see what fans make of the Wembley Stadium experience—it's probably not recommended that excited ticket-holders check out the view from their seats.
It's quite possible that the next attempted stadium fight in the U.K. will be an expensive flop, but in the meantime, British boxing fans would do well to invest in a pair of binoculars because more are on the way.