Andre Ward, the WBA super middleweight champion and a top five Pound-for-Pound best boxer, is the last man to beat Carl Froch, defeating him for the “Super Six’’ championship in 2011.
Ward believes Froch better be careful when he meets George Groves in their highly anticipated super middleweight championship rematch at Wembley Stadium on May 31 or Groves will replace him as the last man to beat Froch. Ward doesn’t think all of Froch’s bluster carries much weight with Groves, who is still angry about how the first match ended.
“I think Groves has a slight edge mentally. I like the way that Groves approached the fight the first time. I think he had Froch rattled,’’ Ward said. “You had a young guy who said I don’t care what you’ve done, who you’ve fought, where you’ve been I’m going to meet you in the middle of the ring, hit you with the right hand and I’m going to drop you. And that’s what he did.’’
Groves has labeled the ninth round stoppage by referee Howard Foster that gave Froch the victory a robbery. Given the way that the fight was unfolding, Ward also believes it might have been a quick hook by the referee as well.
“I can’t say what the intentions of the ref were. I guess he thought Groves was in trouble,’’ Ward said. “I’d like to see a fight stopped one or two punches too soon. I guess you can see the ref doing what he did. The magnitude of the fight in the UK and the fact that Groves showed he had a puncher’s chance (the referee) was in a tough spot. You would think the ref would give him a little more of a chance. That was the first time that Froch had given him that kind of trouble.
I personally think that the ref should have let it go on a little longer.’’
Ward never let Froch get going when he fought him in 2011. Some said the match was boring because Ward outboxed Froch and never stood toe-to-toe to slug it out. Ward won a 12-round decision that many thought was lopsided, though two judges had it 115-113. One judge scored it 118-110, which is closer to what really happened in the ring that night.
Ward said he was surprised that Froch didn’t fight with more fire, because he talked a great game before the match.
“I don’t know if he’s the toughest guy I’ve ever fought,’’ Ward said. “I expected more from him. I take guys at their word and he did a lot of talking before our fight and didn’t back it up. The things he said he was going to do, he never did.
“One thing I do respect is his competitive nature. He’s been willing to fight the best in the super middleweight division and he’s travel all over the world to do it. His confidence borders arrogance sometimes, but you have to respect that.’’
Ward wonders whether age and a number of ring wars have caught up to the 36-year-old Froch and whether Groves has the conditioning and stamina to step up his game in the later rounds to take advantage of the aging Froch.
“The key for George Grove is does he have the gas tank to weather the storm that he finds himself in and gets past the sixth round and step it up in those later rounds,’’ Ward said. “That’s what Froch does. He starts slow and then he turns it on in the middle and late rounds. That’s what champions do. You have to be able to fight in those late rounds. Who knows what would have happened if that first fight had continued. Conditioning and ability to weather that early storm will be the keys for Grove. Can Froch muster what it takes to stand up to Grove?’’
Ward calls it a “50-50’’ fight. But he gives Ward a slight advantage based on his experience in major events.