Groves holds his own in pre-fight verbal battles

By Lyle Fitzsimmons | CBSSports.com

Carl Froch beat George Groves on a controversial stoppage six months ago. (USATSI)
Carl Froch beat George Groves on a controversial stoppage six months ago (USATSI)

Displays of bravado before a Carl Froch fight are by no means a novelty.

The three-time champion at 168 pounds has substantial street cred as one of boxing's most outspoken performers, and his accompanying swagger makes him a lightning rod – for either extreme devotion or utter disdain – both within his native United Kingdom and beyond.

But it's not nearly as common for a “Cobra” foe to be the one landing verbal combinations.

Which further cements the reality that when it comes to Froch, George Groves is clearly no commoner.

“There is nothing he can take from the first fight to give him confidence or hope going into this rematch,” Groves said defiantly, referring to Saturday's return bout at London's 80,000-seat Wembley Stadium – where the two will again vie for Froch's International Boxing Federation (IBF) title belt.

HBO will broadcast the fight as the live main event of a 4 p.m. (ET) show that begins with same-day coverage of a World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight title bout between champion Simpiwe Vetyeka and former three-division champion Nonito Donaire in Macau, China.

“(Froch) can't improve aspects of his game that have been broken or non-existent since day one,” Groves said. “Sure, he can train harder and focus more, but how will that erase his many technical deficiencies and flaws? Remember, he's 36 years of age, 10 years my senior, and I'm the one with room to improve.”

The initial bout occurred six months ago in Manchester, and ended in controversial fashion when referee Howard Foster stepped in amid a Froch flurry in the ninth round and awarded him a championship-saving TKO victory that left the beaten challenger – and many observers – fuming.

Groves had floored Froch in the opening round and controlled much of the match's early going, setting the stage for the incumbent's rally and what looked to be a stirring conclusion in the final few rounds.

Groves led, 76-75, on two official scorecards when the fight ended, and 78-73 on the third.

Foster's intervention was ultimately deemed an “improper stoppage” by the IBF, which mandated Froch either grant the rematch or be stripped of the title he won two years ago with a TKO of Lucian Bute. He had previously held the World Boxing Council's (WBC) on two occasions – winning it in 2008 before a 2010 loss to Mikkel Kessler, then regaining it in 2011 prior to a defeat against Andre Ward a year later.

“He's had his time,” Groves said. “He's won his world titles, and he's taken hard punches from some of the best super middleweights in the world.”

Froch, who's won all of his 28 fights in the U.K. and is 9-2 in world title fights, conceded his less-tested foe got under his skin prior to the first fight last November. And he insisted that Groves' lack of previous top-flight opposition contributed to a decided drop-off in his typical pre-fight intensity level.

The challenger, in fact, had fought 12 rounds just twice in his career and scored his signature victory via unanimous decision over Glen Johnson – a month shy of his 44th birthday – in December 2012.

Froch beat Johnson by majority decision 18 months earlier in his second WBC title reign.

“I'm in a much better place this time and there's certainly not anything he's going to say that's going to wind me up. It's impossible,” Froch said. “The hatred started when George was being really disrespectful and playing down my performances and writing me off. I thought to myself, ‘Hang on a minute, I'm world champion. I deserve a little bit more respect.'”

Groves has gotten ample respect from rematch odds-makers, who've made him a slim underdog this time after he was a more unlikely 4-to-1 proposition last fall. A $100 bet on Groves will return just $130 with a win on Saturday, while it'll take a $160 outlay on Froch to recoup $100 if the champion wins.

That stiffer challenge, it seems, is what it takes to elicit Froch's best verbal effort, too.

“He still hasn't beaten anyone ranked in the top 15 in the world, because the only person he did fight was me and let's not forget that result,” he said. “It was a round 9 stoppage. But I do need to give him a little more attention, a little more boxing respect and go in there totally focused and totally prepared, which I wasn't in the first fight.

“I get to do it all over again, but this time I'll finish the job properly, finish it conclusively and leave no question marks. I'm so excited that I'm going to give George Groves an absolute pasting in front of such a big crowd on a massive event. I cannot wait.”

Weekend Watch List

HBO -- Saturday, 4 p.m.
Simpiwe Vetyeka vs. Nonito Donaire -- WBA featherweight title
Carl Froch vs. George Groves -- IBF super middleweight title

Azteca America -- Saturday, 10 p.m.
Jose Pinzon vs. Michel Rosales -- 10 rounds, middleweights

HBO2/HBO Latino -- Sunday, 12 a.m.
Javier Fortuna vs. Juan Antonio Rodriguez -- 10 rounds, junior lightweights
Luis Rosa vs. Luis Orlando Del Valle -- 10 rounds, junior featherweights

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