London: Carl Froch and George Groves are on the verge of signing for a rematch, the most anticipated fight in British boxing, outdoors at a football stadium on May 31.
Froch’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, told the Guardian the fighters had agreed on a split of the purse and an announcement is expected “within the next 48 hours”. He expects the fight to break all box-office records for a British fight, hoping for a crowd of 80,000, possibly at Wembley.
Froch beat Groves to retain his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles in highly controversial circumstances in Manchester last November when the referee Howard Foster stopped the fight in the ninth round after the champion had landed a barrage of head shots on the challenger, who protested that he was fit to continue.
The two fighters have engaged in vitriolic exchanges ever since and, although there was a huge demand for them to fight again, the return looked to be in jeopardy because of Froch’s intransigence. While Groves — who floored Froch in the first round and was ahead on points when it was stopped — appealed to both the IBF and the British Boxing Board of Control for a rematch, money has decided the issue, as it always does. They have until Friday afternoon to lodge signed contracts with the IBF, or it will go out to purse bids again.
Hearn said: “31 May is the most likely date. We’re talking to Old Trafford, the Etihad, Wembley, Twickenham, Emirates, Nottingham Forest, Millennium Stadium — I can’t really give you anything more specific than that. That’s been my main concern over the past two weeks. We’ll talk to all of those and, if we get the deal done, it will be in the next 10 days.
“The discussions have been much more positive but, as of now, there is no deal. I am hopeful that within the next 48 hours we will be there. Our deadline with the IBF is the end of close of play Friday. Last week we pretty much agreed terms but a signed contract is slightly different. So we wrote to the IBF and said, look, in principle we’ve agreed to the fight. We just need another week to get it signed, to get the contracts drafted. They gave us an extension last Friday. We are nearly there — perhaps even in the next 24 hours for the full go-ahead.
“The percentage split [which the IBF previously declared would be 85-15 in the champion’s favour, appearing to kill negotiations] is only relevant in a purse-bid scenario. It can give you a yardstick but we’re at the numbers now where I believe everyone’s happy. It’s not even the money that’s being finalised, it’s just dotting the Is and crossing the Ts, but until that is all complete, you never know.
“I think we will get way more than 50-60,000. We sold 20,000 tickets in around two hours last time and that was not a third of the fight that it is now. I think you’re looking at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000, and it could be the biggest gate of all-time, post-war in British boxing. I think the Ricky Hatton fight against Juan Lazcano [at the City of Manchester Stadium in May, 2008] did 51,000, and I think Joe Calzaghe against Mikkel Kessler [at the Millennium Stadium in November, 2011] was around that mark, as well.”
Rumours spread rapidly on Wednesday on the back of a report on the BoxinScene.com website, which quoted the International Boxing Federation president Daryl F Peoples as saying, “We have been informed by Carl Froch’s people and George Groves’s people that they have come to an agreement, so it will not go out to purse bids. It is an excellent fight, great for the IBF and the UK, and I understand that there’s been quite a demand for it. They’re two top-notch fighters. We haven’t been notified of a venue just yet — they’re trying to finalise those details but I understand that the contracts will be with us soon.”