Shame on you, Howard Foster.
If Santa was watching, sir, I dare say he's put you on the “naughty” list, for your actions in prematurely ending the evening for Londoner George Groves on Saturday in England, and stopping a battle between the 25-year-old Groves and WBA and IBF super middleweight champion Carl Froch while Groves was 1) still defending himself, 2) still attempting offense of his own in a fight which it looked like he was winning comfortably 3) by no means “out on his feet” or appearing to in a precarious state, in danger of being concussed by the next big blow.
Howard, I queued up video of the fight preparing to take up your cause. I am of the mind that it is always better to stop a fight too early than too late, and think it is better in the grand scheme of things if we media don't scream “early stoppage” too much, for fear that we discourage referees erring on the side of caution, and encouraging more men with brain bleeds and comas. One still photo that came out showed a bowed Groves (19-1) being cradled by Foster, the ref's right hand locked around Groves' head and neck, the losers' hands dropped limp to his sides. But the evidence is pretty clear, George Groves deserved better than your effort on Saturday night, Howard.
Groves was by all means effective at 2:15 of the ninth round, when he caught Froch with a sharp left hook as the 36-year-old Froch (32-2) backed into the ropes. Groves pushed the cocky Brit from Nottingham back into the ropes with some combos at 1:58. A right and then a left, it isn't clear which one was the sharper, seemed to buzz Groves a bit right after. “Groves is in big trouble now,” the play by play man barked, though to me Groves seemed in OK form. His legs were underneath him, he had his hands up, and he had his senses about him enough to grab hold of Froch's left arm, to buy himself some time to get clear. Backed against the ropes, Groves was fighting back, winging shots, a bit wildly but still in possession of a good portion of his faculties and hand speed, as Froch tried to land that one final difference-maker. Ah, but the difference-maker was there, in the form of the referee Foster. The men were trading, with, yes, Froch getting the better of it, with Groves squared up in a manner tailor-made to leave himself open for a nasty absorption, and Groves had pushed Froch back a step or so. All in the joint were on their feet, waiting to see if the vet could finish the show, or Groves could react in a heroic and wondrous fashion, summon deep-down reserves, and steady himself, and finish the round, or even turn the tide fully, with a Hail Mary KO. All in the joint, and watching on the tube, were then stunned when Foster stepped in, and grabbed Groves, and indicated that the fight was over.
Groves was apoplectic (as seen above in Hogan Photo), breaking into a mad fury, indicating that he knew with every fiber that he was in a condition to continue. That, to me, is a major tell, as a fighter will usually tell you verbally and with body language if they agreed with a decision to halt a fight. You see boxers dazed, and then offer minimal objection, to perhaps save their pride, on occasions; not here. Groves went ballistic. As he should have, being that he knows the stakes, he enters the ring knowing that he risks damage to himself, perhaps catastrophic damage, when he gloves up.
I'm not sure if it made the sting lessened when we heard that our eyes had been lying to us, that the three judges working the bout disagreed with the masses who though Groves had the fight well in hand. The judges had it 78-73, 76-75, 76-75, deviating from the judgement of the masses.
So, where do we go from here? Nowhere, I fear. Will the Board yank Foster in by his ear, watch the video with him, and dissect his action, which has immense ramifications, being that nobody knows whether Groves will ever again be in a position to elevate himself and his prospects so much? Probably not, much as the commissions in the States simply let the stink from bad judging dissipate, almost never choosing to confront an issue which is the number one plague to our sport today: incompetent and erroneous work by judges and referees which sully the reputation of a sport which already deals with a shady rep.
Us media can and do rail, but it is up to the actual power brokers to deal with the odious elephant in the room, and come up with methods to combat the scourge of crappy calls and cards. Get on it, bigshots, it's way past the time to do the right thing. And as for you, Mr. Foster, I'm not raking you over the coals as much as some, even if I think your stocking should be filled with it instead of goodies. It's no easy job, you had to make a decision in a short span of time, and while we can most all–but Team Froch–agree, you'd be well advised to study the tape and issue a proper statement on your actions, even if the Board doesn't require it. At the VERY least, George Groves deserves that. And so does the sport.
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