How George Groves went from villain to hero in nine rounds

Sports Mole assesses how George Groves went from villain to hero against Carl Froch during their IBF and WBA super-middleweight clash.

When George Groves appeared on the big screen at the Phones4U Arena on Saturday night, he was greeted by a chorus of boos from the Manchester crowd, who were convinced that the 25-year-old was punching above his weight by daring to predict how he would dismantle Carl Froch during the first three rounds of their IBF and WBA super-middleweight title clash.

Many believed that the Hammersmith fighter's bravado was simply a display of arrogance that someone shouldn't possess when stepping into the ring with a proven elite combatant like Froch, and the expectation was that a man who had arguably earned the tag of the most respected British world champion would punch a sense of reality into the challenger and further cement his own desired legacy.

However, when Groves floored Froch with a brutal right hand inside the opening round, not only did he gain the attention of someone who had spent the last 48 hours of the build-up belittling his chances of an upset, but he also earned instant respect from 21,000 supporters who had just witnessed something that was widely believed to be impossible.

It was a punch that reverberated around the world. Froch had been knocked down by American Jermain Taylor, but this was before the Nottingham man had come through a combined total of 36 rounds against Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward without hitting the canvas. Groves had eradicated the notion that 'The Cobra' was not susceptible to being overpowered in just three minutes. It was a jaw-dropping moment that will never be forgotten.

Groves was unfortunate that he did not get another 10 seconds at the champion because the likelihood is that Froch would have been stopped for the first time, and that could have brought an end to his career. But there wasn't a feeling that Groves had missed his chance, there was the belief that everyone were about to witness a changing of the guard.

Carl Froch and George Groves in action during their IBF & WBA World Super Middleweight Title fight on November 23, 2013© Getty Images

The challenger didn't follow his pre-fight blueprint to the letter, but it soon became apparent that he had the skills to back up his bold statements. His speed was superior, his boxing skills were superior and his gameplan was a thing of calculated beauty.

As the rounds ticked by and Groves continued to largely boss proceedings, there was the expectation that Froch was gearing up for an assault to change the course of the match, but when he did, he was being met toe-to-toe by someone he had disregarded as "a stupid child". And the "stupid child" was winning.

When the bout got brought to an abrupt halt in the ninth, Froch had fought himself back into the encounter, but he was far from dominant. He was getting the better of the concluding exchange, but it was a finish that will never sit well with the majority of boxing supporters in this country. The British public love an underdog and they wanted to see Groves complete his transition from contender to superstar.

But from the moment that he had knocked down Froch, he had won the hearts and belief of a nation, and the reason why everyone is craving a second helping next spring is because of the emergence of Groves. Froch played a significant part in the story that was told on Saturday night, but if they meet again, whether it be in Manchester or London, then there is little doubt that Groves will enter as the crowd favourite.

Only time will tell whether a rematch will be made or not, but Froch was foolish to insist that he didn't owe Groves a rematch when the Londoner is the only realistic opponent that he can face in his next bout. Potential encounters with Ward and Gennady Golovkin should be completely off the table.

Carl Froch celebrates victory over George Groves after their IBF & WBA World Super Middleweight Title fight on November 23, 2013© Getty Images

For all of his achievements, Froch probably deserved a second shot at the unbeaten American or an all-out war with GGG, but both Froch and promoter Eddie Hearn would get lambasted and laughed at if either of those fights were made. If Groves wants the rematch, which he undoubtedly does, then Froch has to give it him to retain his standing in the sport.

Froch's insistence that it was "a fair stoppage" is something that also hasn't sat well with the majority of people, and the champion needs to find a way to backtrack on those comments. The patronising, demeaning tone that he used in his post-fight interview is something that won't easily get forgotten because it displayed an arrogance that someone of his experience doesn't need to show.

Groves is a hero in many eyes not only for his performance inside the ring and willingness to keep to his word, but also for his humility after the fight. He was visibly humbled by the reaction of the crowd and thankful that they were aware of his efforts, whereas Froch approached the situation with an undeterred brashness that indicated that he believed that he was in a different league to someone who was clearly getting the better of him before the controversial ending.

Both fighters will deservedly take some time off to recover, but the strength of the argument for a rematch will not subside until Froch makes a decision on his next move. When he sits back and assesses what occurred at the weekend, and receives advice from several quarters, the 36-year-old, who was made to look every one of those years during those memorable 26 minutes of action, may decide to walk away rather than risk being outclassed and outmaneuvered by someone that he dismissed as an unworthy challenger to his crown.

While the disappointment of ultimately failing to snatch Froch's belts will take months to heal, Groves has the consolation of earning the belief of many doubters, and while he didn't become world champion at the Phones4U Arena, he became the people's champion, and at the age of 25, that could hold greater importance going forward in his career.

Carl Froch celebrates victory over George Groves after their IBF & WBA World Super Middleweight Title fight on November 23, 2013
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