IN a sport that rewards phoney rivalries as much as real ones, a pairing like Carl Froch and George Groves, which stretched from 2013 to 2014, was a gift from the boxing gods. It was real, it was nasty, and it delivered two fascinating fights, one of which was controversial, the other conclusive.
It was also, because of its authenticity, never going to result in the two of them being friends, regardless of the result or the respect both men gained in the ring together. This was evidenced today when Carl Froch, the retired former world super-middleweight champion, touched on George Groves’ decision to officially announce his own retirement from the sport and did so in a manner that suggests Froch’s 2-0 lead in the series equates to bragging rights for life.
“I am not surprised George Groves has retired and it makes complete sense to me,” Froch told Sky Sports.
“Yes, he fulfilled his dream by winning a world title and you can’t take that away of anyone.
“Will I miss him? Probably not. But I can’t deny that Groves made a massive, positive impact on the end of my career. Between us we filled Wembley and raised the bar for the next generation, led by Anthony Joshua of course, to box there, regularly.
“Groves certainly played his part in all that. A big part. He will be remembered for all those mind games and smart words he came out with. But I have to be honest, I never found him funny or clever.
“I could talk about what happened in the fight at Wembley, but you all know… Everything for a reason.”
The closest Froch and Groves have come to seeing eye to eye, if not exactly kissing and making up, was in May 2017 when Groves became a world champion at the fourth time of asking. Froch, positioned ringside, could be seen standing and applauding after Groves had delivered the finishing touches to a sixth-round stoppage win over Fedor Chudinov at Bramall Lane.
“What I will say about him, though, is well done for becoming a world champion,” added Froch. “Even if I was not his biggest fan, I was glad to stand up and applaud his win over Fedor Chudinov at Bramall Lane.
“I do remember thinking he started off well and went for it, but then started to fade. But he bit down on his gum-shield and picked the pace up. He took it to Chudinov with a heavy assault of hooks and combinations and got the stoppage.
“I was happy to stand up and applaud him. He’d won a world title at the fourth attempt. Seeing anyone fulfil their dream is nice, even if they are not your best mate.
“But I won’t miss him, and I am not sure that British boxing will miss him, these days at least. There was nothing left out there for him.
“He lost to Callum Smith (in September), who is now top of the super-middleweight world and it wasn’t like it was a close or controversial defeat. He was conclusively beaten and there was never going to be a rematch. Smith is now in the new super-middleweight scene, where the champions are big, strong, young and fresh.
“I just can’t see there being anything out there for Groves to bother with. Yes, he could wait around and fight the winner of James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr, but what is the point? He’s just beaten Eubank Jr and the first fight with DeGale was so long ago, I am not sure even George could get up for that.
“Groves helped me finish my own career in the best way possible, so now it’s his turn to call it a day. Fair play to him.”
With both men now retired, and therefore back to civilian life, it would be nice if they could one day do the decent thing and put all the issues of old behind them. Shake hands, perhaps. Reminisce. Laugh about it.
Then again, it could be said their reluctance to do this is part of what made the Froch-Groves rivalry so thrilling, so dangerous, and so different to all the rest.
It’s all getting a little boring now, but with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury looking to confirm their rematch within the next fortnight, there remains hope Anthony Joshua will finally reveal the identity of his next opponent – either for April or June – imminently.
“I think we’ll decide this week,” Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports last week. “But whether we let you know is another story.
“There’s three guys that are interested in the fight – that’s Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte and Jarrell Miller.
“If it’s Miller, it will be at Madison Square Garden in New York. If it’s the other guys, it’s going to be at Wembley.
“Joshua is already in camp. He keeps himself in training all the time. He’s waiting on the news. I’m going to see him on Friday night, sit down with him and go through exactly where we’re at.
“We’ll be making some big decisions this weekend.”
If big decisions were indeed made at Eddie and AJ’s Friday night dinner date, surely the name of Anthony Joshua’s next opponent is pretty much ready to be announced. Dillian Whyte, taking to Instagram this morning, has suggested he is due for meetings with Hearn and his paymasters Sky Sports in the very near future. There could be something in that; there might be nothing in that.
Fury, meanwhile, rather than face Joshua in the first half of 2019, appears on course to rematch WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. A purse bid has been scheduled by the WBC for February, but Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, remains hopeful the two camps can strike a deal beforehand.
“Hopefully we won’t get to that position,” the promoter told IFL.TV. “I think we’re all mature and have been around long enough to be able to pull a deal together between both camps.
“We’re in discussions at the moment and hopefully we’ll have that sorted out by the end of next week.”
It’s all deadline after deadline in today’s heavyweight division and the majority seem to pass without incident (or, annoyingly, an announcement). Let’s hope by the end of January – which is to say by the end of this week – we know a bit more about the futures of Messrs Joshua, Wilder, Fury, Miller and Whyte. If not, a potentially exciting proposition could start to drag.