Carl Froch v George Groves fight evokes Benn-Eubank memories

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Groves and Froch animosity continues

Those who suspected the beef between Carl Froch and George Groves was so much kid's stuff might have felt vindicated had they witnessed the end of Thursday's press conference stare-down. Beef? More like tofu.

There were no death threats, nobody got punched or bitten or hit over the head with a camera tripod. Hell, they didn't even threaten to eat each other's children. Come back Mike Tyson, all is forgiven.

Instead, the 36-year-old Froch made a few playground barbs about his 25-year-old opponent's supposed bad breath - perhaps the most hackneyed stare-down trick in the book - before mocking the colour of his strides.

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Froch-Groves face off gets frosty

"What's with the pink salmon trousers?" sneered Froch, who defends his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles against Groves in Manchester on Saturday.

It might go down as the most middle-class piece of boxing trash-talk in history. Froch, presumably, prefers to step out in mustard.

Sky has gone to great lengths to market Froch-Groves as a rivalry on a par with the Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank fights of the early 1990s.

And much of the criticism from boxing fans on social media has been that whereas the animosity between Benn and Eubank was organic and visceral, the exchanges between Froch and Groves feel somewhat fabricated. But there is revisionist history at work here, at least to a certain extent.

Benn-Eubank is now considered to be the British boxing rivalry to end all British boxing rivalries, and rightly so. But the hatred was only semi-organic.

Eubank was jealous of Benn's success and hungry for his title but whether there was any actual hatred from his side is questionable. As with Groves, Eubank was simply working an angle, trying to get Benn's goat.

As such, the smouldering Benn - an all-action ex-squaddie with a fuse as short as Eubank's sentences were long - genuinely wanted to rip his rival's head off.

At the final press conference before their first encounter Benn almost did, attacking Eubank back-stage when the cameras were off. "Benn," according to Eubank's manager Barry Hearn, "was a festering volcano."

Eubank proved before his first bout with Benn that it is possible to wreck an opponent mentally before gloves are pulled on. But Eubank, unlike Groves, was crackers. And Benn, unlike Froch, was emotionally incontinent, always sensitive to a well-placed barb.

Indeed, where the two rivalries diverge wildly is in respect of the strengths of the personalities involved. Froch, like Benn, is a no-nonsense fighting man but comes with none of his menace outside the ropes. Groves, like Eubank, likes to play psychological games but is nothing like as eccentric.

Throw in a spot of ethnic tension - Benn's parents were from Barbados, Eubank's from Jamaica - and you had a tinderbox. "Bajans and Jamaicans," notes Benn's former manager Ambrose Mendy, "are about as friendly as the Scots and the English."

Consider, too, that Benn and Eubank fought in an era of blanket media coverage - 16 million viewers watched their rematch in 1993 - so that their differences were teased out and massaged by journalists and programme makers and magnified many-fold. Fewer than half a million are likely to watch Froch-Groves on Sky.

Personalities aside, where the Froch-Groves rivalry does compare to Benn-Eubank, is as a stand-alone fight. It is often forgotten now, but the first encounter between Benn and Eubank was dismissed as little more than a decent domestic scrap by most, if not all, of the boxing writers of the time.

Boxing News editor Harry Mullan called Benn's WBO middleweight title "boxing's equivalent of the Zenith Data Systems Cup" and "bearing no relation to the world middleweight title as won by Randolph Turpin and Alan Minter".

Two-time world title challenger Jim McDonnell, a former stable-mate of Eubank, called the WBO the "World Barry Organisation", because it was the preferred governing body of their promoter Barry Hearn.

Indeed, it was almost universally accepted that Benn and Eubank weren't even the two best middleweights in England at the time and that Herol Graham and Michael Watson, neither of whom would win a world title, were superior.

Even when Benn and Eubank met for a second time at super-middleweight, it was still considered to be a second division fight by many. Americans James Toney (IBF) and Michael Nunn (WBA) were widely regarded as the premier champions at 168lb.

In contrast, Froch has proved himself to be the second best super-middleweight in the world, beyond any shadow of a doubt - only Andre Ward, who beat him in 2011, is above him. In addition, Froch's current run of 10 consecutive world title fights is the most gruelling sequence of any British fighter in the modern era.

While Benn had at least proved his mettle by bashing up a couple of big American names in their own backyards before his first fight with Eubank, Eubank was an unknown quantity, much like Groves is considered to be now.

So when boxing experts tell you that Froch will walk through Groves on Saturday, you should perhaps remember the words of the venerable Colin Hart, boxing correspondent for The Sun during the Benn-Eubank era.

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'Annoying' Groves motivates Froch

"For the first time we are going to find out if Eubank is an expensive original or a useless fake," wrote Hart before the pair's first fight. "Once Eubank feels those hooks crushing into his ribs, his hands will come down and he will be rendered helpless by the third round."

Eubank stopped Benn in the ninth, before their second fight, nearly three years later, ended in a draw.

I stress the word "perhaps". Because what Froch has now achieved far surpasses what Benn had achieved before his first fight with Eubank.

In addition, neither Froch's chin nor his stamina have ever been in doubt, while Benn was always considered vulnerable. Groves, meanwhile, was in real trouble against Kenny Anderson back in 2010, while Eubank had whiskers of steel.

It isn't quite Benn-Eubank but Froch-Groves should still be worth a watch. If Groves stands and trades like he says he will, we could be in for a monstrous few rounds, because Groves is a tough kid with dynamite in that right hand of his.

But even if Groves goes hiding, Froch should hunt him down and finish him before they reach the final stretch. And there's your ration of beef.

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