The British Boxing Week in Review: Froch, Groves, DeGale, Wembley, Malignaggi

James GarnerContributor IJune 6, 2014

The British Boxing Week in Review: Froch, Groves, DeGale, Wembley, Malignaggi

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    Last weekend will go down as one of the biggest nights in British boxing history, and it was a huge success for Eddie Hearn and Matchroom on more than one level as Carl Froch came out on top over George Groves.

    Overall, fans will feel they got their money's worth as, along with a main event that pulled the curtain down on the Froch-Groves rivalry, there were competitive wins for Jamie McDonnell and Kevin Mitchell—and a potentially star-making performance from James DeGale.

    Events on this scale come and go, and despite the boost to the sport this should bring, it will likely be many years before another crowd on the scale of 80,000 is attracted to a UK fight.

    From that angle, a Groves win would probably have paid higher dividends by propelling him into superstar status and elevating his future fights into the stratosphere.

    While Carl Froch now has the most goodwill of any British fighter since Ricky Hatton, it is quite possible that he will not fight on these shores again.

    This weekend sees a good bill at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle as Stuart Hall defends his IBF bantamweight title against Paul Butler.

    The pick of the undercard is a British and Commonwealth title fight between Jon-Lewis Dickinson and Ovill McKenzie which may well steal the show if McKenzie can cause the superior boxer trouble with his strength and power in the early rounds.

    For now, here is the week in review.

1. A Good Time for Froch to Retire?

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    After Carl Froch rebounded in style from a poor performance in his first fight with George Groves, nobody could accuse him of being washed-up or of not having a future in boxing.

    In the aftermath, Froch said, "I'd love to box in Las Vegas — it ticks a really special box for me. It's the fight capital of the world."

    As detailed by Lyle Fitzsimmons, the most likely U.S.-based opponents for Froch are Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Gennady Golovkin and Andre Ward.

    Chavez is seen as the most lucrative option, perhaps the only Froch match-up that could be sold as a pay-per-view on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The best fight for the Nottingham man on a risk-reward basis would be James DeGale, but that would be a fight for the O2 Arena, the Manchester Arena, or, if held in late summer, the City Ground.

    However, given that Froch seemingly struggled to motivate himself for the first Groves fight, it is hard to see a DeGale bout getting his juices flowing.

    After the Groves rematch, trainer Rob McCracken said: "I am being totally honest. I want him [Froch] to have a break."

    Once the Wembley gate and the expected PPV sales are counted, Froch should have made enough money to set himself up for a nice retirement.

    Turning 37 next month, you have to wonder how much longer the Cobra should submit himself to the rigours of the prize-ring.

    Froch is not a cute boxer like the near ageless duo of Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather—so he has always taken his fair share of punishment. In the first Groves fight he took enough damage to raise concerns about the long-term effects of his chosen profession.

    Chavez, Golovkin and Ward would all be seriously tough fights, albeit for different reasons, and Froch may wonder if the purses would be worth the potential downsides.

    As he said on Saturday, "It is not going to get any better than this. It was absolutely fantastic." So why not call it a day, not with a whimper but with a bang?

2. 168 Is a Bad Division for Groves Right Now

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    George Groves apologists will say that Carl Froch got lucky and connected with a freak KO shot that would have stopped anybody at the weight.

    While there's an element of truth to that, it doesn't necessarily erase the question mark it puts over Groves. Carl Froch is a hurtful puncher who doesn't let opponents off the hook easily, but he is not in the habit of stopping fighters on a single blow.

    Because it was a particularly devastating punch that ended the fight, it can't therefore be directly concluded that Groves has poor punch resistance.

    But the real reason it was a freak shot is because top-level boxers simply shouldn't be getting hit clean with a punch that travelled that far to its target.

    You have to question if tiredness was a major factor in either Groves' reactions failing him or in him misjudging that he could throw a counter left-hook in time to beat Froch to the punch.

    After he faded against Froch in their first fight, he seemed to be preserving his energy more the second time around—so for his mental and physical resilience to still come under question is a worrying progression.

    The top fighters in the super-middleweight division will fancy their chances of dragging Groves into the later rounds and then putting his stamina and punch resistance to the test.

    As it stands there are a lot of guys at the weight against whom Groves matches up badly. Andre Ward would be the favourite with anybody currently at 168 or 175, so it almost goes without saying that he's trouble.

    Outside of Froch, the biggest-money fighters in the division are Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the U.S. and Mikkel Kessler in Europe, neither of whom have ever been stopped and both of whom have 12-round engines.

    On the next tier you have WBO champion Arthur Abraham and the WBC king Sakio Bika, who Groves should in theory be able to beat. However, Abraham can really hit ,and Bika has gone the distance with Joe Calzaghe, Lucien Bute and Ward, so he is something of an immovable object.

    Overall, the top fighter with whom Groves matches up best is the one he has already beaten—James DeGale—and that could make for a money-spinning return.

    It will be interesting to see how Groves' German promoters Sauerland Event handle him now. He may do best to wait out the likes of Kessler (35), Bika (35) and Abraham (34) and rebuild slowly to pick up a title belt a couple of years down the line.

3. DeGale Is Ready to Challenge

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    Before Saturday night the narrative went that since their close 2011 fight, George Groves had come on in leaps and bounds while James DeGale had largely stagnated.

    The tables have not exactly turned, but Groves and DeGale are once again operating at similar levels, and it is almost inevitable that they will square off again at some point in their careers.

    Before DeGale's debut under the Matchroom banner, we were sold the story that he had been fighting with an injury in recent fights and had been demotivated by the level of opposition he was facing on Channel 5.

    Usually such promotional spin doesn't measure to the reality check of the ring, but in DeGale's case it seems to stand up to some scrutiny.

    DeGale's victim on Saturday night, the previously unbeaten Brandon Gonzales, was arguably a career-best win and most certainly a career-best performance.

    Straight from the opening bell, DeGale went after his opponent and shook him up before raising the stakes and dropping him in Round 4, then forcing an admittedly premature stoppage.

    This was a more purposeful and powerful "Chunky" and it was his first decent KO win since beating Paul Smith on an accumulation of shots back in 2010.

    For the first time you could see DeGale imminently challenging the division's top names.

    Whether or not the Harlesden man can win at the highest level can only be proved when he reaches it, but he has the potential to do so, and the Gonzalez win proved he is definitely a top-10 operator with some untapped potential yet.

4. Malignaggi and the Benefits of a Third Voice

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    In general in the U.S. on HBO and Showtime you have a three-man commentary team; a two-man team is the status quo on this side of the pond.

    For the big-fight occasion last week, Paulie Malignaggi was shipped over to add to Sky's usual team of Nick Halling and Jim Watt.

    That was largely a successful move, and it was an experiment you would hope Sky will repeat, especially because their broadcasts have lost some of their spark since the departure of Ian Darke.

    Malignaggi gave more technical analysis and observations and also popped the hype bubble at times, for example when he called Jamie McDonnell's bogus "world-title" contest a "good learning fight."

    The team of Halling and Watt has never quite gelled with Halling tending to agree too easily with his more experienced colleague, even when, as on Saturday night, the Scot had an exaggeratedly one-sided card in favour of Froch.

    It is surprising the extent to which the commentators can influence perceptions of fights, with Watt's pro-Groves slant in the first fight contributing to the sense of injustice and his pro-Froch slant in the rematch making many believe that Froch dominated the fight from start to finish.

    Malignaggi was a little reluctant to disagree with the locals when it came to the main event, but the idea of a third, different, voice on commentary is a good one.

    Even at 83 years old it would be a thrill to see Larry Merchant given a chance on UK TV, as he is by far the most literate boxing voice—and there is nobody who brings the sense of a big-fight occasion more than the former HBO and Philadelphia Daily News veteran.

     

5. DownsIdes of a Wembley Crowd

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    When you open the gates at 5:30 p.m., get 80,000 fans into the stadium and sell beer for the bargain price of around £20 a pint, you can expect a raucous crowd.

    It still boggles the mind how both fighters managed to get more boos than cheers on their way to the ring. Admittedly Froch and Groves each have a side to them that can raise people's ire but you would expect at least one of them to have the sway of the fans.

    When the action didn't quite live up to the first fight, there were even boos during the exchanges—even though no seasoned boxing observer could be surprised at a more tentative rematch after a bout where both fighters hurt each other badly.

    Worst of all was the booing of Amir Khan on the big screens, particularly after the Bolton fighter put on a highly impressive performance against Luis Collazo last time out in Las Vegas.

    You have to wonder what was behind the crowd's distaste for a boxer who has represented Britain well at the highest level for years as both professional and amateur.

    At least Frank Bruno received a generous hand, but that was very much the exception.

    Then after the fight you have the widespread lack of respect for a fallen fighter best demonstrated in the Twitter mini-meme of #DoTheGeorgeGroves.

    Such are the downsides of appealing to casual boxing fans, many of whom seem to see the sport as little more than a sub-genre of pantomime, no doubt encouraged by the WWE style build-up and George Groves' decision to enter on the top-deck of a London bus.

    But at least we were spared the national anthem.