Boxing: Nigel Benn tips George Groves to be the new Dark Destroyer

Former world champion offers advice and support before showdown with Carl Froch
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The Independent Online

George Groves admits he was knocked out last week – by a telephone call from Australia. It came in the middle of the night and the voice on the end of the line was that of Nigel Benn, the former world champion, offering words of encouragement and advice for the 26-year-old Londoner before his repeat superfight showdown with Carl Froch at Wembley Stadium next Saturday night, a £20 million event that has become as much a happening as a fight.

"It kinda blew me away," Groves tells us. "I'd never spoken to or even met him before but as a schoolboy he was my favourite fighter – and my dad's. A real hero.

"He said: 'Just go out and do it. You were robbed the first time. Just do your stuff. Carl's there for the taking.' He also said a lot of stuff about him I'd rather not mention in giving me some useful tips.

"Since the last fight lots of people keep telling me how to beat Froch. But of all those who've spoken to me, from film stars to other fighters, what Nigel said meant most. After all he's been there and done it."

The Dark Destroyer, now a 50-year-old church minister in Sydney, knew all about domestic grudge fights. Froch v Groves 11 has distinct echoes of Benn's own dramatic duo with Chris Eubank in the nineties.

Such support from a pugilistic peer will further fuel Groves's already brimming confidence, but Benn is not alone among star super-middleweights who believe "Saint George" is capable of depriving Froch of his IBF and WBA titles.

Joe Calzaghe, who retired undefeated in the division, tips Groves "providing he doesn't run out of puff". And even his career-long arch-enemy James DeGale, the Wembley warm-up in a final eliminator for the world title against unbeaten American Brandon Gon-zales, (a tough proposition), reckons Groves "has Carl's number".

We shall see when the roar of the 80,000 crowd drowns the sound of the first bell. Boxers, like jockeys, can be notoriously unreliable tipsters, and, while two months shy of his 37th birthday, Froch is the sort of seasoned warrior you underestimate at your peril.

His clumsy start with that first round knock-down in Manchester last November suggested he was in the grip of ring rage, uptight at being dissed by an upstart who had fought no one of his stature.

But it was his own right hand that was held aloft after the ninth, albeit after a seemingly hasty intervention from referee Howard Foster that was deemed "improper" by the IBF who upheld Groves' plea for a re-match. The tsunami of popularity for Groves even astonished a sport where the bizarre is often the norm, and this time he will be cheered into a home-town ring.

"Carl has managed to get by with what he has got," claims Groves. "Slowly, his attributes are starting to deteriorate. He is left now with a good chin and a bit of determination. Technically, he punches terribly.

"In the last fight, he was abused – physical, emotional, spiritual. How is he going to deal with that when the flashbacks come? I know I can hurt him mentally and physically."

As the Independent on Sunday first revealed Froch has sought counsel from a sports psychologist, which Groves sees as a sign of weakness. But Froch says it was as much to help him cope with the occasion as an antidote to Groves's mind games.

"I couldn't even say his name before," he admits. "I let the boy get under my skin with his arrogance, the disrespect ,and it affected my performance in a very negative way. That will not be happening again."

Groves counters: "I think Froch respects me but he doesn't want to admit it. He thinks I'm a petulant kid and he wants to tell me to behave. But he knows if he does, it'll be embarrassing. So he's trying to be calm. But he's seething. He's more in need of a psychiatrist than a psychologist."

The decade that separates them may be the telling factor though as Calzaghe indicates Groves' stamina is the less reliable, which may be why he has been on regular 10-mile runs.

Observers of Froch's Sheffield workouts say he threatens more controlled venom this time.

Groves promises a KO in three. "Bring it on," says Froch, who says Groves can't last the distance. Here is a fascinating collision of will and egos that could go either way. Re-matches rarely live up to the original but this should be an exception.

It is a hard call but I believe Groves gained more in losing their last inconclusive entanglement than Froch did in winning. What would not surprise me is a split decision in Groves' favour, and even richer pickings in episode three of a titanic trilogy.

Froch v Groves II is live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book online now at: or call 08442 410888