Boxing: Record crowd hopes for Froch v Groves II

THE Carl Froch versus George Groves rematch on 31 May at Wembley is expected to attract the biggest post-World War Two crowd for a fight in the UK.
Carl Froch, left, in action with George Groves during their IBF and WBA World Super Middleweight bout last November. Picture: GettyCarl Froch, left, in action with George Groves during their IBF and WBA World Super Middleweight bout last November. Picture: Getty
Carl Froch, left, in action with George Groves during their IBF and WBA World Super Middleweight bout last November. Picture: Getty

The fight between WBA and IBF super-middleweight champion Froch and bitter rival Groves will be the first staged at the new incarnation of the London stadium, which re-opened in 2007 and seats 90,000.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “I think we have got the product to fill stadiums like this. When you get an opportunity to do so, you have to grab it with both hands. This is the ultimate, in my opinion – steeped in history – the first fight at the new stadium. And what a fight.”

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The two Britons first clashed at Manchester Arena in November when Groves, 25, was controversially stopped by 36-year-old Froch in the ninth of 12 scheduled rounds.

Groves had floored Nottingham-based Froch in the opening round and was ahead on the judges’ cards when referee Howard Foster stepped in.

A hometown bout for Froch had been mooted but there is not a venue with a large enough capacity.

“I don’t want to fight in Nottingham. Nottingham’s not big enough,” Froch told Sky Sports News. “It only holds the best part of 30,000.

“I am just so excited that I am going to give George Groves an absolute pasting in front of such a big crowd.”

The current highest attendance recorded at a British bout was the 55,000 who watched local IBO light-welterweight champion Ricky Hatton take on Mexican Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester stadium in 2008.

The last fight at the old Wembley stadium was the WBC heavyweight title clash in 1995 between Britain’s Frank Bruno and American Oliver McCall, which the home favourite won on points to become champion at the fourth attempt. Henry Cooper and Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, fought a non-title bout in front of 35,000 at the stadium in 1963.

England are due to play a pre-World Cup friendly against Peru at Wembley on the night before the fight but Hearn is confident any logistical difficulties can be overcome and labelled Wembley the “ultimate” venue for the clash.

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Since the first bout, Matchroom promoter Hearn has been in negotiations with several venues for what he has dubbed the biggest fight in British boxing history.

“When I walked out here the first time I remember ringing Carl Froch and George Groves and saying ‘this is the place’,” he told Sky Sports News.

“We wanted to make a real statement and, ultimately, we needed the seats for a fight of this magnitude. To walk out here today with the posters up and around, knowing it will be full of boxing fans on May 31, is a wonderful feeling.

“I think we have got the product, not just in the fight but in the sport itself, to fill stadiums like this.

“We were talking with the City Ground, the Millennium Stadium, Old Trafford and the Emirates – all fantastic stadiums – but this [Wembley] is the one.

“People ask: ‘Is it the biggest fight in British boxing history?’ I believe so.”

Hearn expects the main event fight to start around 10pm and said he has already started talking to Transport for London to see how many fans would feasibly be able to attend.

“It will be interesting to see how quickly they [the tickets] go,” he said.

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“At the first fight, 21,000 tickets sold in 12 minutes, so we think this is going to fly and to have this place full up would be something very special.”

Groves remains confident his initial showing in Manchester can lead to him taking the belts at Wembley, and agreed that Froch’s hometown of 
Nottingham was not big enough for such a fight.

“I have boxed at Wembley Arena and had a fantastic night there,” he said. “This is a little bigger but boxing in London, a national site, people are happy to travel here and it had to be a big city to host a big event, which is what ruled out poor Nottingham.

“I think I have got a lot of advantages and the venue or city is the least of his [Froch’s] concerns.

“The advantage he wants to worry about are the ones I displayed last time we boxed – he has more things to worry about rather than where it takes place.”

Tickets for the fight will go on sale on Monday, 10 March.