World champion Carl Froch recovered from a first-round knockdown to defeat British rival George Groves with a highly controversial ninth-round stoppage win in Manchester, England, on Saturday.
Froch retained his International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association super-middleweight titles after referee Howard Foster decided Groves was unfit to continue.
Groves, who sent Froch to the canvas in the first round, complained vehemently as he was heading for what seemed like a points win after a thrilling encounter.
Unsurprisingly, both English boxers had very different views of Foster’s decision to halt a contest scheduled for 12 rounds.
“It was a fair enough stoppage,” Froch told Sky Box Office. “I felt I had a couple more free shots on him and I was lining him up for the uppercut. He was struggling, that last one or two shots can do great damage in this sport. The referee has to make a split-second decision.”
Froch, who had been angered by Groves’ “disrespectful” pre-fight comments, added: “He has earned more respect from me as a fighter ... as a person he has been very childish and very rude.”
“He’s held his hand up proudly tonight, he came in to the arena tonight to boos and is leaving with cheers,” added Froch, after his third defense of his IBF belt and the first of his WBA title in his third stint as a world champion.
However, Groves said: “I’d like to say I have immense respect for Froch. I hope after today he’ll have more respect for me. I tried to shake his hands, but he didn’t have any of it — but then he came and said some kind words.”
“I was getting boos and now I’m getting cheers in front of these amazing fans. I’m so proud to come here and give this display — I know I’ll be a great fighter. I had this taken away from me unjustly,” he said.
Froch expected the Londoner to “run and hide,” but Groves did nothing of the sort as he made a stunning start by flooring the champion toward the end of the first round with a big right hand.
After being sent to the canvas for the first time in four years, Froch jumped up at the count of three and was on wobbly legs, but luckily for the champion the bell was only seconds away, although Froch had to be helped on to his stool.
Froch came back firing in the second round with a right to the head and a left to the body, but — against all the odds — it was Groves who was looking sharper as he landed three successive jabs in the third.
Groves, who had only just turned professional by the time Froch first won a world title in 2008, launched a long right hand that landed flush on Froch’s temple in the fourth round.
Froch was in trouble again in the sixth when Groves landed huge left and right hooks that left the Nottingham boxer wobbling, but Froch absorbed the blows and, incredibly, recovered to put Groves under intense pressure on the ropes.
Groves — 11 years younger than the 36-year-old Froch — was still able to exploit holes in the frustrated champion’s defense, but Froch came back again to have Groves staggering around the ring in the ninth round.
However, the challenger was still on his feet when Foster stopped the epic encounter — a decision jeered by the crowd.
Groves sank to his knees in disbelief, but seems likely to get another chance against Froch given the inevitable clamor for a rematch.
Froch improved his record to 32 wins with two defeats, as Groves suffered his first loss in 20 fights as a professional.