Referee Howard Foster will have woken up this morning to see his
social network profiles flooded with abuse from people disgruntled
at his handling of the Froch v Groves fight last night.
Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, you'll be aware that
the Doncaster official stepped in to halt the action in the ninth
round after Groves had shipped a couple of hard blows.
The furore comes from the fact that that the flame-haired
Hammersmith man had been dominating much of the contest and seemed
on course to do something only Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler had
previously managed - outclass the Cobra.
Groves had dropped the WBA and IBF super-middleweight champion
heavily in opening round and had won most of the exchanges in the
eight sessions that followed.
More importantly, prior to that fateful ninth, Groves had never
really looked too troubled by Froch's renowned punching power.
But the thing is, the referee isn't there to think 'this kid is
winning so I've got to let him continue when hurt', he has to make
a split-second decision that is in the best interest of the boxer
Was last night's stoppage premature? Yes, but there's an old
adage that rings true and it goes like this - it is better to stop
a fight one punch too early than one punch too late.
In this country we've seen a number of tragedies in the past two
decades or so and nobody wants another one.
Some people have tried to claim that last night's fight was a
fix. Frankly, that is ridiculous. Howard Foster is one of the
finest officials in Europe and anyone who thinks he stopped the
fight with anything other than his best intentions really doesn't
undertand the sport or the man.
One national newspaper has today published an article in which
it insinuates that Mr Foster's decision came from him liking a
comment on his Facebook page predicting a ninth round finish.
That's absurd and one hopes that the two-bit hack that wrote the
piece is currently hanging their head in shame.
It has also been claimed that if Groves should have been stopped
in the ninth, then Froch should have been stopped in the first.
That thinking overlooks one key factor - boxers generally recover
better from being hurt early in a fight than they do if hurt late,
after already shipping multiple blows.
In conclusion, it's fair to say last night's stoppage was hasty,
but it's unfair to call into question Howard Foster's integrity.
Venting dissatisfaction at the result is perfectly acceptable, but
launching personal attacks at a human being who is merely doing
their job isn't.
Alongside Richie Davies, Mr Foster is the best star class A
referee currently licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control.
He's already earned the right to be the third man in big contests
and will continue to serve the sport admirably in the future.
What's more questionable than the decision to stop the fight is
the fact that two of the judges only had Groves up by one point,
including the knockdown. But those scores are academic now.