Froch vs. Groves Shows the Extreme Dearth of Quality at super middleweight

By Anthony Mason - 05/31/2014 - Comments

froch#2By Anthony Mason: IBF/WBA super middleweight champion Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KO’s) had a magnificent knockout over the outclassed George Groves (19-2, 15 KO’s). Froch vs Groves was a major event in the British boxing world today and a lot of anticipation was behind the event. However, it is hard to see, outside of the hype, trash talk, and controversial nature of the last bout, what made this fight so highly anticipated.

George Groves has not one impressive win on his record, outside of a beyond washed up Glen Johnson. Froch and Groves are good boxers, but there is not much to suggest that they are great. Froch is elite, but it is hard to see how he can compare with the truly great fighters of Britain’s past. Perhaps the high anticipation is a result of the diminished quality of British boxing since the early 1960s, the last days of Randolph Turpin’s career.

Randy Turpin was an incredible boxer, having ended the great Sugar Ray Robinson’s long streak. He is one of the top middleweights in the sport’s history, not only out of Britian. Since his career ended, however, the United Kingdom has not produced many elite fighters. There is the last truly great heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis, but he was not affiliated with only the United Kingdom, having Jamaican ancestry and Canadian citizenship.

The only man completely affiliated with the U.K., since the days of the great Randolph Turpin, to perform at an extremely high level is the great Ken Buchanan. Buchanan was the undisputed lightweight champion at a time where being a champion meant something, unlike the modern era where the likes of Diego Corrales, Carlos Baldomir, Judah, Guerrero, and Ortiz can consider themselves champions when they are only belt holders.

Outside of Buchanan, however, the United Kingdom has sadly not produced any elite quality fighters since Turpin’s days. The boxers that come closest to fitting this description are Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.

Chris Eubank had his best wins over Michael Watson, Thulani Malinga, and Nigel Benn. This is a good list of wins, but far from the elite status one would expect from a nation that produced the likes of Jimmy Wilde, Bob Fitzsimmons, Turpin, and Buchanan. Watson accomplished little out of stopping Benn early in his career, and was knocked out by the underrated Mike McCallum immediately after. Malinga’s only good win was a split decision over Benn, who was nearing the end of his career.

Benn, on the other hand, had a good win over Iran Barkley. Outside of that, he lost and drew with Eubank, and had an extremely questionable win over Gerald McClellan with very poor refereeing in favor of Benn, resulting in one of boxing’s greatest tragedies. Combined with Eubank and Benn’s blatant ducking of the great James Toney, it is apparent that they put together some good wins, but far from what could put them in the class of the truly great.

Henry Cooper made his name off of dropping a young and green Muhammad Ali in a fight that he still ended up getting stopped. Cooper would go on to lose against every top-level opponent he ever fought. Frank Bruno was a solid and underrated heavyweight, but he was far from elite. When he fought the top guys in his division he always lost.

Barry McGuigan also had an unimpressive list of opposition that he went against. Lloyd Honeygan defeated a few solid opponents but couldn’t even get past Marlon Starling or Mark Breland. John Conteh also fought weak opponents before the late Matthew Saad Muhammad defeated him twice. Carl Thompson was an average boxer who defeated Chris Eubank when he was well past his best. Mediocre boxers such as Ezra Sellers and Johny Nelson defeated Thompson. Near the end of his career, he was able to expose the weak status of David Haye.

David Haye competed as a heavyweight in the weakest era of the divison’s history, so that automatically excludes him from being elite. His best wins come against a washed up version of John Ruiz (a mediocre heavyweight even in his prime), Nikolai Valuev, and the always-inconsistent Audley Harrison. These are hardly the makings of a great career.

Naseem Hamed was a very flashy boxer and one of the sport’s biggest entertainers. What he had in flash, however, he lacked in substance. This was evident when the only elite boxer he ever fought, Marco Antonio Barrera, easily picked him apart. Hamed failed at the only opportunity he had to prove his elite status.

Ricky Hatton was very similar to Naseem Hamed in the sense that he padded up his record only to lose every time he fought the top dogs. Hatton did a good job of padding his record with the likes of Malignaggi (who never beat one elite fighter), a washed up Castillo, and Kosta Tzyu (a man who did nothing outside of beating an incredibly weak Zab Judah and an extremely shot Chavez). By padding his record up with big names, instead of quality opponents, he was unprepared for the top dogs and given a rude awakening in two dominations at the hands of Pacquiao and Mayweather. Obviously, few people have troubled those two, but Hatton was completely obliterated and barely put up a fight, showing that his zero was a farce.

A lot has been made of Joe Calzaghe’s zero, but it is clear that this is due to careful selection of opponents. Just as the great Whitey Bimstein said, an undefeated fighter is the result of someone who fights weak competition. This was also seen in the careers of Hatton and Hamed prior to their exposure.

Calzaghe, as one would expect with his padded record, fought Chris Eubank when Eubank was completely past his prime. Soon after that, Calzaghe was barely able to get past a mediocre opponent in Robin Reid by split decision. One of Calzaghe’s biggest wins is considered to be Jeff Lacy, a man who beat absolutely no one of note. Lacy was such an incredibly weak opponent, even a washed up post-weight drained version of Roy Jones was able to stop him. Lacy was not even able to defeat a washed up Jermain Taylor either. If this win somehow makes Calzaghe great then Jermain Taylor must be magnificent. The fact that Calzaghe’s biggest legitimate win comes against a man with just over 20 fights and no notable fights, whereas Calzaghe had over 40, only proves how weak he is.

Another win on Calzaghe’s padded resume is Peter Manfredo. Manfredo lost to every notable opponent he ever fought, so Calzaghe did what he was supposed to do. This was not impressive. Sakio Bika is in the same boat. He lost to every step up in competition he ever fought, and is one of the weakest belt holders in the sport. Mikkel Kessler is a pretty good fighter, having beaten Froch (but no one else). Kessler is a good fighter, but far from the opposition that would stand out on an incredible resume.

Calzaghe was then gifted a terrible decision against a 42 year old man in Bernard Hopkins. We will come back to this fight, but first we need to quickly go over the Roy Jones fight. Calzaghe, as he did with Eubank, waited until Roy Jones was far past his best. Jones’ career was over after the Ruiz fight from draining himself. Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson not only defeated Jones prior to Calzaghe, but they knocked him out badly. Calzaghe cannot be considered elite based on a decision win over an extremely shot and past his prime fighter. Otherwise, Tarver and Johnson need to be considered unbelievably great since they defeated a less washed-up Jones in even better fashion than Joe padded record Calzaghe.

As for the Hopkins fight, even Calzaghe’s trainer and father knew that the fight was over heading into the twelfth round. Considering that Hopkins was 42 years old (still good but also past his prime), and Calzaghe having the youth advantage, this is the definition of getting exposed. Prior to round 12, Enzo Calzaghe asked, “What are you doing?” “It’s OVER!” “You’ve got to stop him. You’ve GOT to stop him!” Some corners say certain things to motivate their fighters, as was the case with Pernell Whitaker against Oscar De La Hoya, but it was evident from Calzaghe’s father’s expression and rage that he clearly knew the fight was definitely in Hopkin’s favor.

It was also evident that Hopkins was never hurt by a punch during the fight, whereas Calzaghe was effectively countered and even dropped. Calzaghe threw a lot of punches, but hit mostly air or lightly tapped the shoulders and hips of Hopkins. Not only that, but Calzaghe decided to match Hopkins’ low blow faking by repeatedly holding Hopkins and hitting him illegally in the back of the head. Before the scorecards were read, Calzaghe’s expression showed how unconfident he was of a legitimate victory. When he heard that the fight was a split decision, however, his expression lit up when he realized he could be gifted with a decision, and he was.

Some will point to compubox stats to validate the decision’s legitimacy, but fail to remember that punch stats are the most inaccurate statistics in all of sports. Glancing and missing blows are counted as effective punches, and everyone could tell that all Calzaghe did was glance and miss Hopkins the entire night, making up the majority of his punch stats. Furthermore, matches are scored round by round and not on the basis of punch stats. If punch stats were the determinant, Maidana vs Mayweather should have been a draw since Mayweather only landed nine more punches than Maidana.

Calzaghe fought the same type of fight as Oscar De La Hoya did in his gift decision against Pernell Whitaker and his decision loss to Mayweather that should have been unanimous. Oscar and Calzaghe threw a large volume of punches that hit air or lightly tapped their opponent, while their opponents effectively made them miss and countered them. Just as the case with Hatton and Hamed, Calzaghe’s zero was exposed as a farce by the only elite fighter he ever fought, albeit a 42 year old version of him. Even if someone does believe the farce of Calzaghe’s victory, (when his own father and trainer did not) and uses that as justification for his great status, then Jermain Taylor has to be light years ahead of him. After all, Jermain Taylor won two close and controversial decisions over a younger Hopkins fighting at his natural weight, whereas Calzaghe only won one gift decision against an older Hopkins at a different weight class. Some misinformed people may make up the fallacious excuse that Jones and Hopkins ducked Calzaghe, but that is hard to believe seeing as Calzaghe was completely irrelevant until he had over 40 fights and both men were far past their best days.

Amir Khan had a win over Marcos Maidana, a boxer who Roger Mayweather notes never beat anyone impressive. He was then getting dropped all over the ring against Danny Garcia, the only other notable opponent he fought. Khan recently beat an average opponent in Collazo, and we will see if he can pick up his career in the future.

That brings us to Froch and Groves. George Groves has a long way to go before he can be judged, but as of now, outside of a Froch near the end of his career, he has not fought anyone impressive. On top of that, Froch is the only man he fought at a top level, and he lost both times.

Froch on the other hand has another weak resume. Against a washed up Glen Johnson, he was barely able to squeak out a decision. Bute and Abraham are incredibly weak opponents who have lost to every top opponent they fought. Froch did defeat Groves, but prior to fighting Froch he did not even have 20 fights and not one impressive victory. Froch defeated Pascal very early in Pascal’s career, and the result would be very different if the rematch were to take place now that Pascal had the time to develop.

Andre Dirrell and the top competition in Andre Ward also easily out-boxed Froch. A common trend with modern British boxers, Froch decided to fight Jermain Taylor after Hopkins, Winky Wright, and Pavlik had already worn him down. Despite this perfect timing of selection, Taylor was easily outboxing Froch before a late come from behind stoppage. You know what they say; from time to time a blind squirrel can find an acorn every now and then. It is disappointing that the likes of Froch and Groves are the low standards for such a supposedly major boxing event in Great Britain.

The United Kingdom was at one point a great boxing nation, but now the likes of Froch and Groves have taken the place of the greatest British boxers. What happened to the nation that produced Ted Lewis, Jimmy Wilde, the great weight climber Bob Fitzsimmons, Randy Turpin, and the underrated lightweight Ken Buchanan? In modern times, the status of British fighters has slowly regressed.

Some will claim that Britain is at a disadvantage due to being a small nation, but that is false. Even single cities such as Detroit have produced greater fighters than all of Britain. Tommy Hearns, James Toney, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson all did the city of Detroit proud with their great careers. The Kronk Gym helped mold the likes of Holyfield and Lennox Lewis (who is only partly British, being of Jamaican descent and Canadian citizenship). Philadelphia produced the great Bernard Hopkins, who clearly schooled the padded record farce of Joe Calzaghe, and heavyweights like Sonny Liston, Jimmy Young, and Joe Frazier. If single cities can produce such great boxing talent, Britain needs to do its part in catching up.

We can only hope that the British people can once again return to their glory days and compete with the other great boxing nations such as the United States, Argentina, producing the likes of Sergio Martinez, Carlos Monzon, and Niccolino Locche, Mexico, home to Marquez, Morales, Barrera, Chavez, Ricardo Lopez, and Salvador Sanchez, and Cuba, molding great boxers such as Kid Gavilan, Erislandy Lara, Jose Napoles, and Guillermo Rigondeuax. Perhaps boxing can then begin its path back to the glory days that were once there.

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