"Me mate" Ash was down in London for the weekend and on the Saturday night we went out to watch the Big Fight. Carl (The Cobra) Froch vs George (The Saint) Groves.
I've been a big fan of The Cobra since the very beginning and (think) I have watched all his fights. He's a great fighter and a much better boxer than he gets credit for. Yes at times he's a bit of a brawler, yes he has a very lazy left hand guard and therefore gets caught way too often for comfort. But as well as a granite chin, lots of heart and always being impeccably well conditioned, he's also very accomplished technically.
So obviously I didn't want to miss this fight. The build up to a fight billed as 'The Battle of Britain' had been full on and a little bitter. The pre-fight interviews and press conference were tense affairs and the pair looked as though they were about to come to blows at the weigh in. Ash was up for watching it too. So after a quick google search. Seriously what did we do before Google? I found a pub between Farringdon and Blackfriars called the Hoop & Grapes. A nice enough little pub but fairly expensive as well as quite small and insanely busy. But there weren't too many places that appeared to be showing the fight - plus there seemed like quite a good atmosphere - so we decided to stay put.
Before the fight, you'd have to have been a fairly brave man to suggest that you genuinely thought that Groves would win the fight. Yes he had a chance. He's a young lad who can clearly box and boxing history is full of big upsets. However, Froch is a very experienced fighter and a 3 time (& current World Champion) who has been there, done it and won the belts. So although I was a little nervous, I fully expected Froch to get the job done. My opinion was that it wouldn't go the full 12 rounds. That Froch would stop him in the 8th or 9th round. I'm not a betting man, so I didn't put my money where my mouth is (maybe in this instance I should have?)
Even though we were in London (Groves' hometown), to our surprise the majority of the spectators in the pub were supporting the more experienced Froch (who is from Nottingham). And therefore very few people in the pub (or anywhere) expected to see what they saw from the very first bell. For anyone who didn't see the fight and has somehow managed to stay oblivious to the fight and it's outcome until now: to everyone's surprise, Groves came out hard and fast, commanded the centre of the ring. But the biggest surprise of all came with 10 seconds of the first round left, when Groves became only the second person ever to knock Froch down. The first knock down of Froch's career coming in the 3rd round of his fight against Jermain Taylor. A fight he ultimately won by knock out in the 12th round, with just 14 seconds of the fight remaining (after being behind on the scorecards).
(The incredibly tough) Froch jumped straight back up from the canvas against Groves and managed to wobble back to his corner at the bell, a little dazed but still in the fight. After taking full advantage of a much needed breather, Froch came out well in the second round but was unable to land any significant blows and (as was the same for the first 6 or 7 rounds) it was Groves who did all of the good work and landed all the big shots. Froch started to come into his own in the 8th and 9th rounds. With Groves looking extremely tired at this point in the proceeding it was clear that Froch was looking for a knock down. After all he appeared to be quite far behind on points after all of Groves good work in the earlier rounds. Maybe winning the last 4 rounds would be enough but in order to be sure of retaining his WBA & IBF titles, he really needed to stop him. And that's exactly what he did in the 9th round (as I had predicted *smug*). At least that's kind of what happened!
Groves started the 9th round well but with the fight wearing on Froch's experience was starting to show. Froch was beginning to get the upper hand and with Groves against the ropes Froch landed four crushing blows without reply. Groves looked to be out on his feet but even so it came as a huge surprise to everyone at ringside, everyone in the pub, in pubs and front rooms around the country (& the world) as well as to Froch and Groves when the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.
I personally feel as though Groves was only seconds from hitting the canvas and I'm sure the referee genuinely felt as though he was doing what he felt he needed to, in order to protect Groves from being seriously hurt. However, the stoppage did look incredibly premature to everyone watching (including me). Surely he could have waited a few seconds. Groves had done so well, trained so hard for months and come out fighting. Surely the referee could have afforded him a few more seconds to see if he could steady himself, stay in the fight and make it to the next bell?
As well as doing a disservice to Groves however, I also believe that - although it meant that Froch won the fight and retained his belts - the premature ending of the fight was also quite harsh on Froch. I say this because the controversy surrounding the end of the fight has painted Froch in a bad light. It wasn't his fault that the fight was stopped early! But at the end of the fight, George Groves came out looking like the hero who was unfairly stopped from winning the fight, while Froch ending up being turned into a pantomime villain. Ok so some of Froch's comments after the fight might not have helped his cause. But the referee looked into Groves' eyes and decided that he was in no fit state to continue. While Froch knows that he had his man and that if the fight had have continued any longer he could have caused Groves - who already had a cut and two swollen eyes - some real damage (Froch had also been a bit bashed up but was now on top). So saying the referee was right to stop the fight is not such a big claim when you put it into context.
Therefore as a fight fan I do feel it unfortunate that the referee didn't hold off for a few seconds. Just until we could see what would have happened next. Which I fully believe would have been Groves spark out in the middle of the ring. But as a human being I would never want to see a boxer seriously hurt. So would it have been correct to let Groves get hit a few more times, just to to satisfy the fans and show them that he definitely was or wasn't in a fit state to continue?
Of course no one can know what would have happened for sure if the fight had continued. But I do feel that anyone who thinks that had the fight been left to continue, Groves would have managed to last the remaining three and a half rounds and won the fight on points is a tad deluded. The fight had turned and Froch was ready to knock Groves out. In which case, why let it continue any longer? I know plenty of people will disagree with me and that's why I also think the fight was ended prematurely. Not because I feel Groves had a hope in hell of winning the fight but because it would have been better for Froch to have proved without doubt that he deserved to win the fight and render any potential rematch next year pointless.
So ultimately at the end of the fight - controversial ending aside - I believe that Groves paid for his inability to finish Carl Froch off. Something no one before him and likely no one after him will be able to do. It would appear that it might be impossible to knock Carl Froch out? Both of his two defeats - one a clear defeat to the classy Andre Ward and the other a tight and slightly unfortunate defeat to Mikel Kessler who he beat in a rematch - have been on points at the end of 12 hard fought rounds.
But what does any of this have to do with swimming I hear you ask? Well it reminded me of a story I heard while swimming at a pool near Chester back in August. One man was telling another about a woman who had been training at the pool to swim the English Channel. Apparently the day before, while making her attempt - after 2 years of training - she was pulled out of the water after 9 hours of swimming due to bad weather and poor light. The Froch vs Groves fight reminded of this story because although I feel Groves would have lost the fight at some point, it shows you that sometimes things in sport are taken out of your control. You can train and train and train. Be 100% ready, come out hard and fast, shock your opponent onto their back foot and it still might not be enough. Maybe because your opponent is just too tough or maybe because the referee steps in to end your chances prematurely.
There are of course a lot of things that are within your control but there are also those outside of it. These factors worry me a little. But as I prepare for my big swim I can't waste time thinking about those. It is paramount that I concentrate on the positives and make sure that I continue to do everything I can to make this swim happen! Firstly and most importantly at the moment: train hard and regularly. Because although when the day comes and I am (hopefully) physically and mentally ready to complete the swim, something might just happen that makes it impossible. But if it something that is completely out of my control and therefore something I cannot do anything about... what's the point in worrying about it?! Easier said than done but as long as it is not something I had control over, I will have nothing to regret.