News May 2019

Eddie Hearn talks Froch-Groves aftermath and that controversial stoppage


by @shaun_brown

British boxing is slowly getting its breath back after the events which took place inside the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester on Saturday night.

On paper, the WBA and IBF world super middleweight title contest between champion, Carl Froch and challenger, George Groves looked a step too soon for the latter. But as is so often the case in sport the underdog tore up the script and performed sensationally throughout and admirably backed up his pre-fight game plan of taking it to the champion.

The Groves’ stare across the ring before the fight began, the knockdown of Froch in round one, the vicious exchanges, the alarming number of times Groves’ did the seemingly impossible and outfought the ‘fighter’ and then the controversial stoppage from referee Howard Foster. These were all memories and talking points that continued into the wee hours of Sunday morning and will roll on for the weeks and months ahead until the rematch is signed.

For promoter, Eddie Hearn, there was much to chew on as he spoke to Live Fight in the first part of an in-depth interview about the fight, the aftermath, the backlash and much more.

LF: Now that the dust has settled a bit, have you had a chance to watch the fight back?

EH: I watched the whole fight back last night [Sunday].

LF And?

EH: Probably the best fight I’ve ever seen. It’s only really when you watch it back; the tension, the drama, Froch being knocked down. Not just being knocked down, if you watch it back he was out. When he went back to the corner, (Robert) McCracken told me he asked Carl “Are you okay?” and Carl said “Do you know what, I’m absolutely fine but I was gone there.” From there, it’s difficult to score a fight when you’re there. I try after every round to say well he’s one up or whatever. I had Carl two down at the time of the stoppage, when I watched it back I had him three down. I gave him [rounds] five, seven and eight. And when they stopped the fight I thought it was a good stoppage but when I watched it back I thought it was too early. If you watch the fight back he [Froch] hits him with a swinging right hand about 30 seconds before the stoppage and it hits him [Groves] on top of the head and his legs go completely. Then they go into a clinch and he [Groves] goes back on the ropes and he gets hit with a shot straight through his guard then a clubbing left hook, a big right hand then a big left hook. And I think he would’ve gone down, or certainly touch down but he falls into [referee] Howard Foster who calls the fight off. From where I was sitting he looked out on his feet but then when you watch it back; he was hurt – 100%. I think the referee, though, should’ve let it go on for a few more seconds.

LF: Have you spoken to each fighter since Saturday night?

EH: I’ve spoken to both of them. George is obviously disappointed, feels he’s been hard done by. And, obviously, with the whole country telling you similar things you feel you’ve been even more hard done by. I’ve tried to explain to him that number one: the fight’s changed your life. Number two: you were brilliant. Number three: you’re now hugely popular and the rematch is very likely and you’ll get another shot. I was really disappointed for Carl Froch to be honest with you. I don’t think he deserved to be booed. Someone said on my Twitter “Well it was because of his comments he made in his post-fight interview.” It wasn’t. He was booed in the ring when he put his hands up and he was booed as soon as he started talking. How can you be compos mentis when you give a post-fight interview? He’d just had a war for nine rounds. The reason I feel for him is because how deep he had to dig in that fight and he was on the verge of stopping George Groves. Not just whether the referee jumped in or not but I believe another five, ten, fifteen seconds, you know what Carl Froch is like in that position. He’s deadly, he’s brutal and you would’ve thought he would’ve gone on to stop him. And he feels he was in total control mentally of what was going on in the fight. He openly admits that after the knockdown it was one of the biggest right hands he ever took. But after that he felt he was always going to wear him down. Whether he would’ve or not, we don’t really know the answer if he would have clinically stopped him. But you’d have to favour Froch in that position with Groves being hurt like he was. The other reason I feel sorry for him is if he had stopped Groves clinically it would have been the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen in a fight. It’s a little bit of injustice that we never got to see that or if Groves had miraculously held on for the round and then for the other three rounds would he have held on? I think George did such a good job with the mind games he made Carl second guess himself. He looked tentative, he was on the back foot and when you’re on the back foot and you’ve got someone coming forward at you at speed it’s very difficult. But when Carl pushed George back and they were having trade-offs off the ropes that’s when Carl looked dangerous. He was getting hit a lot in those trade-offs but that’s when you favour Froch. Fair play to Groves, he took some big shots. People talk about his chin but he took them.

LF: It was a great fight but with the controversial stoppage and the public backlash what do you think, in the end, the fight has done for the sport?

EH: Regarding the sport, any fight that brings that kind of entertainment and excitement to the audience is only a good thing for the sport. You’re talking about a stoppage, in the referee’s opinion was in the best interests of the fighter. Now that’s subjective. Most think it was wrong and too early. But there’s also the argument that the referee is there to protect the health of the fighter and to also have the best interests of the fighter at heart. It’s very difficult to criticise a referee in that respect because he’s the one who’s the closest person to those fighters. In most people’s opinions, and mine, the stoppage was a little bit too early. But the British Boxing Board of Control’s standard line is “We’d rather one punch too less than one punch too many.” And it’s very difficult to argue with that statement. The fact it was stopped too early, I don’t think it tarnishes the sport. You get a few idiots on Twitter saying “Boxing’s fixed”. I mean, come on we’re not in Brooklyn in the 1940s. How can you fix a fight when two people are punching holes in each other for nine rounds? The referee made a snap decision as he saw it and unfortunately it was just a little bit wrong. What I said in the post-fight interview was “Whatever you think about the stoppage, remember the fight.” Remember what both fighters did in that fight. As for the judges’ scorecards, one had it by five rounds and I disagree with that completely. Two judges had it by one round, I disagree with that completely. I’ve had people saying “This always happens on your shows.” I do 200-250 fights a year and you’re pulling out two fights that were controversial. One where a ref jumped in too early and the other was Burns vs. Beltran. And in that fight the scoring was wrong! And then I had people saying “Yeah well what about Rose vs. Maciel?” Do me a favour! That could’ve gone either way! And then I had “Well what about Quigg vs. Salinas?” Quigg won that fight! Quigg won it by a round.

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