Monday, November 18, 2013
Froch-Groves takes center stage in U.K.
By Shaun Brown
Special to ESPN.com
British boxing and the super middleweight division have become synonymous with one another since the dizzy heights of 1993, when over 40,000 people filled Manchester United's Old Trafford football stadium to watch Nigel Benn attempt to settle a score against archrival Chris Eubank.
That night, which was was more memorable for the occasion rather than the fight, opened up a path for British bashers like Robin Reid, Joe Calzaghe, Richie Woodhall and Glenn Catley to become world champions and cement Great Britain's place as one of the leading lights in a division that exploded into life in the 1990s.
Twenty years ago, at age 16, Carl Froch, like the rest of the nation, watched on as Benn and Eubank fought to a draw which never really closed the book on who was "Simply the Best." Both fighters left an impression on the man who would grow into the world's 168-pound unified champ.
"I have to be honest, I've always been a Chris Eubank fan," Froch said. "I'm a Nigel Benn fan, too. I thought he was brilliant. He was aggressive, tenacious and he had a real attitude about him, which was great. But I loved the finesse and the flair of Eubank. I liked "Prince" Naseem Hamed as well back then, just because of the excitement he brought. Even though Eubank and Hamed are different, they are similar because you always wanted to watch them. You either loved or hated Eubank, and I loved him."
Fast forward to Saturday, when the U.K. will once again play center stage to another arena-filling super middleweight contest as Froch defends his titles against George Groves. On paper, the contest appears one-sided, but the fight's fuse has been lit thanks to the underdog's verbal assaults on the champion.
Froch admitted that it's always "nice" to have a British rival, but he doesn't see the unbeaten Groves as a challenge that could compel fans to talk about this bout with such fondness as they do those from years gone by.
"I never aspired to get a big British dust-up, and I don't think this is one of those because Groves hasn't really done much," Froch said. "If he had a world title, defended it a few times and was seen as a big threat and it was a 50-50 matchup, then you could compare it to that era, but he's a massive underdog. So it takes that sort of excitement away from it. But it's still exciting, the fact that two British fighters are fighting for a world title, because it doesn't often happen."