With a devastating right-hand punch, Carl Froch won the biggest fight in British history in terms of attendance by knocking out George Groves in their re-match in front of a record 80,000 fans.
It was a terrific fight until the eighth round, with Groves possibly ahead on the scorecards, when Froch unleashed possibly the best punch of his life to flatten the very brave challenger. At the age of 36, Froch retained his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles in emphatic style, the official time being 2mins and 34 secs of the eighth.
The fight began like all rematches that feature huge bitterness between the fighters – they were very cautious. Unlike their first encounter in Manchester in November, Froch stayed upright and was actually first to score.
The most appropriate thing to say about the first round was that it was a draw, because neither man really wanted to pile it on.
In the second, Groves was forced to put a knee down on the canvas by a piece of Froch wrestling, but referee Charlie Fitch merely warned the champion, who then landed a thumping left hook late in the round. Groves’ artful jabs won him the round, however.
Froch landed solidly early in the third but Groves responded immediately, and soon they were exchanging telling blows as the fight reached a new level of intensity. Groves probably shaded it, and could have been judged to be two or all three rounds ahead at this point.
Groves landed real counters early in the fourth, but Froch began to exert some pressure, landing a left hook that just missed the target. Yet the Nottingham man did not capitalise, though probably took the round.
Froch opened up in the fifth and Groves had to cover up momentarily before responding with a right that stung Froch into defence, and then the fight became an all-out slug-fest, which suited Froch – his round.
The momentum was now with Froch, and Groves’ face was beginning to mark up, though the 26-year-old Londoner still came forward. No question, in the sixth this was already a mammoth contest.
Groves needed to be cleverer now and in the seventh he caught Froch with a couple of early shots that staggered the champion before Froch responded superbly and pushed Groves back. They soon went back to the slug-fest, though, and Groves had the better of them with uppercuts stopping Froch’s attack,
In a fight that was very difficult to call, the scorecards now probably should have read all square, three rounds each with one even.
The eighth had early signs that Froch was looking for the knockout, and late on the round he produced a fierce right hook that found the target. Referee Fitch jumped in and after one look at the stricken Groves, he called it a knockout – no argument.
Groves and Froch had been trash-talking before the fight, but now the challenger embraced the champion, and that is the way boxing should be. The sport has had its fair share of detractors in recent years, but this fight in front of a record crowd restored the faith in the noble art.
Earlier, James DeGale earned the chance to face the winner of the main event after beating Brandon Gonzales in a fourth-round stoppage.
DeGale lost to Groves in a controversial points decision in 2011 but a convincing victory against Gonzales means DeGale is now the mandatory IBF challenger to the super-middleweight title.
DeGale, who won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, came out of the traps fast in the first round with two early hits and continued to dominate the opening exchanges with some excellent sequences. Gonzales seemed to gather himself after a bruising start and was able to shut down DeGale’s space with greater effect in round two and three.
But the 28-year-old Londoner opened up midway through round four with a series of explosive punches which sent Gonzales crashing to the floor with three big hits.
The American rose to his feet but was unable to buy himself the time he needed.
DeGale again unleashed with three more shots to Gonzales’ head and as the American wobbled, the fight was stopped in the Londoner’s favour.
DeGale said: “I did exactly what I wanted to do tonight, which was put in a performance. In front of nearly 80,000 at Wembley, it’s fantastic. The atmosphere is brilliant.
“I’m going to have to watch it back but I hit him with good, clean shots and he was hurt. I’m 100 per cent ready for a world title shot now. That was a final eliminator so that’s it, I’m mandated to fight for the IBF.”
Prior to that fight, Jamie McDonnell was crowned WBA bantamweight champion after beating Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat of Thailand with a tenth-round knock-out.
The former British, Commonwealth and European champion was made to work hard for his victory by a feisty and determined opponent but the Doncaster fighter grew into the battle and took the title with a superb left hook.