FROCH-GROVES COULD BE IN CARDIFF
It was confirmed yesterday that Carl Froch (32-2, 23KO) will rematch George Groves (19-1, 15KO) in defence of his IBF and WBA Regular titles on May 31st in one of British boxing’s most eagerly anticipated battles. Now the fight has been agreed and contracts signed, the next questions fans are asking is ‘where will it be?’ Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, who will promote the contest, has said that the venue will be officially announced in the next ten days and that Cardiff, along with several other cities, is in the running. London’s Wembley Stadium has the perfect prestige to host a fight of this magnitude and Froch-Groves would be a fitting fight for the new stadium’s first boxing event. However, as big as this rematch is, a football world cup takes precedent over anything in England, almost including parliament, and England play Peru in a world cup warm up friendly on May 30th. It’s unlikely that less than 24 hours is enough time for the stadium staff to prepare Wembley to host the event as the pitch has to be covered correctly to avoid damage to the surface and Sky Sports would have limited time to set up their huge television operation. Another option is Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium which in 2007 hosted Ricky Hatton’s fight with Juan Lazcano and 55,000 fans attended – an attendance record in post war Britain. However, the stadium is out of the running for May 31st as it hosts a One Direction music concert on that date. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in North London has been mentioned. It seats 60,000 spectators and it’s one of the most modern sculptured stadiums in Britain but it would mean Groves, a Londoner, would gain home advantage and its a luxury he’s unlikely to receive with Froch being the champion. One stadium that fits the bill is Manchester United’s Old Trafford. The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is in need of some excitement this season and if it’s anything like the original, the Froch v Groves rematch should deliver exactly that. Old Trafford is a neutral venue, big and free on the proposed date but one fellow venue with an outside chance could be Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. To pitch the case of the Millennium Stadium, BoxingWales have compiled the reasons why the Froch v Groves rematch could work in Cardiff: 1.) THE ROOF – Boxing is said to be unpredictable but British weather is on another level. The reason why stadium fights on these shores are so rare is because rain has a habit of ruining boxing events which are open air – most notably; David Haye v Dereck Chisora at Upton Park in 2012, Mike Tyson v Lou Savarese at Hampden Park in 2000 and Lennox Lewis v Frank Bruno at the Arm’s Park in 1993. However, a major advantage of the Millennium Stadium is the retractable roof which can close to keep the rain out and the atmosphere enclosed. The reason why it is renown as one of the most atmospheric sporting venues in the world is because of the way the sound reverberates around the stands when the roof is above a capacity crowd shut inside. 2.) CROWD CAPACITY – There has been talk of ambitions to attract a record breaking attendance to the Froch v Groves rematch, this limits options and probably rules out Froch’s beloved City Ground which is the home of the Nottingham Forest football team. With Wembley also out of the window then the Millennium Stadium has the largest potential capacity of any venue in Britain. There are 75,000 seats at the venue and room for thousands more on floor level. The PPV sales on Sky Box Office are likely to be the biggest source of revenue but ticket sales are likely to be the second biggest stream of income and the Millennium Stadium can meet the most extreme of public demands. 3.) NEUTRAL VENUE – In an age when the actions of all officials, judges and referees come under scrutiny then it’s in the interest of all parties to rule out any potential controversy that will de-legitimise any result. That’s why a neutral venue is a necessity. Controversy can still happen, look at the first fight which was held in Manchester, but it’s a step that still must be taken to satisfy Froch and Groves as neither have any Welsh links. This way, no excuse of home favour can be used by a boxer who may be on the wrong end of the scorecards. 4.) HISTORY – Throughout British boxing history, the city of Cardiff has hosted more than it’s fair share of huge fight nights. The Welsh boxing public have proven their appetite for big time boxing time and time again, given that Froch v Groves appeals to the rest of Britain too then a record attendance could be broken in the Welsh capital. Howard Winstone fought Vincente Saldivar in front of 40,000 spectators at Ninian Park in 1967, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno attracted 20,000 to the Arm’s Park in 1993 and Joe Calzaghe brought 50,000 to the Millennium Stadium for his unification contest with Mikkel Kessler in 2007. Could Froch v Groves be the latest instalment of history to take place in Cardiff? 5.) CITY CENTRE LOCATION – The curse of modern sporting stadiums is that most are now built on out-of-town shopping sites, surrounded by retail stores and poor transport links. However, one major benefit of the Millennium Stadium is it’s prime location, right in the middle of Cardiff city centre. Cardiff’s main transport stations are literally a five minute walk away and most importantly for many, the stadium is fan friendly in terms of being less than a stone throw away from the bars, pubs and clubs of Westgate Street.