The Grudge, the Golden boys and the Little Stars
Over 75 years since the last time 80 000 people gathered to watch a boxing fight in the UK, the Carl Froch vs George Groves rematch is undeniably a special event.
The headline event has every ingredient required to make it worthy of such an epic sporting occasion. However, just to ensure the night cannot fail, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom promotions has put on a fantastic undercard too.
In Carl Froch vs George Groves we have old vs young, the proven veteran against the up-and-coming contender and north vs south, a mix which has captured the imagination of the nation and the entire boxing world. Add to this a world title eliminator for James DeGale against someone with a near identical record and trained by one of the world’s most highly regarded trainers, the winner of which will be a mandatory for the Froch-Groves bout. Also on the show is the ultra-talented Kevin Mitchell, looking to set himself up for a third world title shot in the lightweight division, whilst former bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell looks to regain a world title having been stripped of one last year by taking on arguably Asia’s best fighter after Manny Pacquaio. Finally, giant heavyweight Anthony Joshua is looking to continue his rise as Britain’s next superstar by staying on his winning knockout streak, completing what is set to be one of the best boxing events Britain has ever seen.
With such an unbelievably stacked card, it can be hard to know what to expect, so here is a breakdown of all you can look forward to on Unfinished Business.
The Next Big Thing
6ft 6 and close to 17 stone of pure muscle, Anthony Joshua is like a caricature of what a heavyweight boxer should be, and he even fights like one.
A gold medal winner in the super-heavyweight category at the London Olympics at 22 years old, the Londoner has a style and personality that can make him a real superstar. So far he has been as deadly in the ring as he has been effervescent outside of the ring. Carrying the type of power a man of his stature should, Joshua is also not afraid to use it, fighting in an aggressive and violent manner that is guaranteed to produce some YouTube hits through the years and has already seen him stop all of his opponents thus far.
Still in the developmental stage of his career, Joshua will take on journeyman Matt Legg (7-2) in just his sixth bout thus far.
EXPECT…Joshua to score a stunning knockout very quickly.
The Best Bantamweight in the World
Having won the IBF bantamweight title with a gritty majority decision against Mexican knockout artist Julio Ceja, Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell (23-2) was a victim of boxing politics as he was unable to negotiate a fight in time to defend his belt.
Having been stripped of the title in October, McDonnell has since gone on to pick up two more wins, maintaining his status as one of the best bantamweights in the world. Now he gets a chance to prove it when he takes on the largely unheard-of (and unpronounceable) but highly rated Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat (52-2). Hailing from Thailand, Rachawat is a very experienced knockout artist, although all his fights thus far have been in Thailand.
Having already beaten world class opponents, including fellow Brit and current IBF champion Stuart Hall, with a win McDonnell can prove he is one of the very best bantamweights in the world today and look for big fights against the likes of Anselmo Moreno. At 5’8, McDonnell is a very big bantamweight and has the tools to be dominant in this division. However, Rachawat will be looking to make McDonnell his 35th knockout victim and prove his great record is no fluke.
EXPECT…a close contest until McDonnell takes over in the final third.
Make or Break for Mitchell
At one time, East London’s Kevin Mitchell was considered one of the brightest prospects in British boxing alongside Amir Khan. However, Mitchell has admitted that distractions outside of boxing have cost him the world title he is talented enough to have claimed by now.
Currently 37-2, Mitchell has only lost in world title bouts, having been stopped by Ricky Burns and Michael Katsidis respectively. Aside from those performances, Mitchell has regularly looked world class himself, most notably in winning near every round against Khan conqueror Breidis Prescott and in a classic war against John Murray.
Taking on his fourth opponent in just seven months shows Mitchell finally looks completely dedicated to making one last attempt at a world title. Taking on Mitchell in this IBF eliminator is Ghanaian Ghislain Maduma (16-0), training out of Montreal, Canada. In the mould of the likes of Adonis Stevenson, Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal who all also trained from Canada, Maduma is an explosive puncher with an offensive style. Mitchell is also a predominantly attacking fighter, making this likely to be a show-stealer of a fight.
EXPECT…a back of fourth contest that Mitchell will finish via knockout.
The Forgotten Golden Boy
Once the toast of Britain, having won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, it was strange to see James DeGale (18-1) spend the last few years fighting in shopping centres, coasting through fights against unheralded opponents.
Now though, James DeGale has been taken under the wing of Eddie Hearn with Matchroom promotions and the world is once again his oyster. DeGale seemed to lose his way after losing a very tight decision against George Groves in 2011 but nevertheless the still went on to rack up eight straight wins since.
Now he is in a world title eliminator and will be fighting on his home turf of West London in front of 80 000, with a win making him a mandatory opponent for the Froch-Groves winner. Taking him on is teammate of Amir Khan and Andre Ward, Brandon Gonzales of California (18-0-1), an intelligent and efficient boxer that will not give an inch. Trained by the highly respected Virgil Hunter, Gonzales will be well prepared and determined to take this huge opportunity. DeGale should also know that a win here can open up doors to huge fights for himself, especially if he gets to continue his long standing rivalry with Groves (former teammates turned opponents).
DeGale has always had massive talent but he may have gotten too used to cruising through fights, something Gonzales won’t let him do. One way or another, one super-middleweight will prove himself world-class on the night.
EXPECT…DeGale to be forced to produce his very best, but whether he can or not is a different story.
Britain’s Biggest Bout Ever
The event sold 60 000 tickets before any other undercard fights were made official, proving that this is officially Britain’s biggest ever domestic dust-up. Froch (31-2) and Groves (19-1) are both very exciting fighters and their friction is very real, which is why the fight has become as big as it is. When the two were first matched up as opponents no one could have predicted what is now happening.
In regards to the contest itself, how the fight plays out can go any number of ways. Froch is a boxer/puncher that likes to keep opponents at range before sporadically blitzing them like an unrefined axe-man hacking away at a tree, whilst Groves is a come forward counter-puncher that likes to tie opponents up in his own rhythm so he can consistently land bombs, almost Juan Manuel Marquez-esque.
In the first fight Groves showed he definitely has all the tools to beat Froch. However, ‘The Saint’ seems adamant to stop ‘The Cobra’ (with a left-hook within five rounds apparently), which is something that has looked near impossible, such is the toughness of the Nottingham man. Groves physically cannot take a shot as well as Froch, so it is a bad idea for him to want to brawl with him, even though Groves may have more one-punch power. A West Londoner, Groves will have huge support on the night and when the crowd roars Groves will want to show them what they expect – a real tear up.
There is no doubt the first fight was stopped too early, but it could have just been 10 seconds too early as Groves did seem very hurt. That will give Froch belief he can again apply enough pressure to crack through Groves’ will.
Even if Groves does look to steal a points win by out-boxing Froch with his speed, the fight cannot fail to be entertaining. It is a classic in the making and at this point we can only sit back in anticipation.