Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - Page 18 News List

George Groves asks for ‘neutral officials’

AP, LONDON

George Groves says he will not fight Carl Froch unless the British Boxing Board of Control appoints “neutral officials” for their rematch at Wembley Stadium.

Froch retained his WBC and IBF titles with a ninth-round stoppage against Groves in Manchester on Nov. 23 last year.

Groves launched an appeal, saying referee Howard Foster stopped the fight prematurely, and the IBF then ordered a rematch. Froch’s belts will be at stake again on May 31.

During a press conference on Monday, Groves labeled the ninth-round stoppage a “stonewall robbery” and added that his request for neutral officials was “conditional on the fight going ahead.”

Both Groves and Froch are from Britain.

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn supported Groves’ call for neutral referees, but did not blame to Foster for his refereeing in November last year.

“I feel the officials for this fight should be neutral,” Hearn said. “It’s too big to have any blame or controversy.”

With Wembley able to seat up to 90,000, the fight will set a post-World War II attendance record for a boxing match in Britain after 60,000 tickets that went on sale on Monday sold out quickly.

The record is 56,000 in 2008 for Ricky Hatton-Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester Stadium.

“I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in everything happening for a reason,” said the 25-year-old Groves, who is from London. “Maybe I had to go through that decision, that first fight, to get to the point where I can fight at Wembley, in my home city, in front of my home fans. I couldn’t be more excited about this fight now.”

Tempers frayed after the press conference as both boxers posed for photographers inside Wembley, with Froch shoving Groves after the Londoner stared at him with intensity.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion on that fight,” Froch said. “But what I think about the stoppage is totally irrelevant.”

“All I know is that it was controversial, and that’s why we’re here. There’s going to be no question-marks this time around. It doesn’t get any bigger than this. The platform to showcase my skills, I’m just so, so excited,” he said.

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