Steve Bunce on Boxing: Mind games reach a new level for Carl Froch v George Groves rematch

Trash-talking gives way to ‘quack quacks’ and think tanks

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The Independent Online

It is possible that Paddy Fitzpatrick is a genius in the art of mental sabotage that has been used in the fight game for hundreds of years.

Fitzpatrick will be back in the corner when George Groves meets Carl Froch in front of 80,000 at Wembley on 31 May, and claims Groves’ mental and physical preparations are at a whole new level. “I was only with George for nine weeks before the first fight, and for this one we have had a six-month camp,” he said.

In the first fight the referee, Howard Foster, stopped the contest in Froch’s favour in the ninth round with Groves on his feet and winning on all three scorecards. Froch had also been dropped heavily in round one. There were screams for revenge but Froch and Eddie Hearn, his promoter, made it clear they were not interested; Fitzpatrick wants that fact to be remembered.

“I asked George to appeal,” he said. “We used professional people, sports psychiatrists and sports psychologists to compile a report for us and we used that at the appeal. They were our ‘temporary’ members of staff and we were not going to leave it to the opinion of people that were too close to the fight.”

One report highlighted Foster’s bizarre decision to “like” a Facebook message on the day of the fight that said: ‘Froch in nine rounds.’ It was a bad mistake by one of Britain’s best referees.

“The professionals proved that he would not be able to mentally detach himself from that opinion on fight night,” said Fitzpatrick. “It is the opinion of a professional person, and George took that knowledge to the appeal.”

It worked, the IBF ordered the fight, and Hearn and Froch followed, influenced by the obscene ticket sales. “Now we know that Froch has gone to see a quack quack and that is disturbing,” said Fitzpatrick. “He’s with a sports psychologist but he needs a psychiatrist and I will tell you why; a psychologist can help you get back on a bike, get back in a car. Carl Froch’s problem is not a bike or a car: it’s George Groves, and for that he needs a psychiatrist.”

Fitzpatrick is convinced that the process – certainly something Froch has never submitted to before – can only have a negative impact on his preparations: “It’s only happened because of a crisis in the Froch camp.”

The crisis revolves around the relationship between Froch and his trainer since 2001, Robert McCracken, who is also in charge of Britain’s amateurs. McCracken and Froch both refuse to accept that they are in denial about the first fight. “It’s boxing,” said McCracken. “Fighters get hurt, they come back and they win. It’s the way the sport works.”

Fitzpatrick said: “Rob has had to lie to Carl about that fight. They have never had a proper conversation about that fight. That conversation is never going to happen, brother. Basically, if it did happen then Rob would have to say to him that everything that you did to get to this point in your career will no longer work. Rob has no other choice but to lie to Carl.”

Next week the carnival moves to London, and Fitzpatrick said: “I wonder where Carl is right now. Lied to by Rob, beaten by George and laid bare by his psychologist – his head is all over the place. He knows that he can’t win.”

Froch does appear calmer and less agitated than he was before the first fight and actually posted pictures at the weekend on Twitter of an idyllic family day in his garden. “I expect that,” added Groves. “He’s being trained what to say, what to do – it’s all rehearsed. It’s all a show and he knows it.”