World champion Carl Froch recovered from a first-round knockdown to defeat British rival George Groves with a highly controversial ninth-round stoppage win in Manchester on Saturday.
Froch retained his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation super-middleweight titles after referee Howard Foster decided Groves was unfit to continue.
Groves, who sent Froch to the canvas in the first round, complained vehemently as he was heading for what seemed like a points win after a thrilling encounter.
Froch expected the Londoner to “run and hide” but Groves did nothing of the sort as he made a stunning start by flooring the champion towards the end of the first round with a big right hand.
After being sent to the canvas for the first time in four years, Froch jumped up at the count of three and was on wobbly legs.
But luckily for the champion the bell was only seconds away, although Froch had to be helped on to his stool.
Froch came back firing in the second round with a right to the head and a left to the body.
But – against all the odds – it was Groves who was looking sharper as he landed three successive jabs in the third.
Groves, who had only just turned professional by the time Froch first won a world title in 2008, launched a long right hand that landed flush on Froch’s temple in the fourth round.
Froch was now concerned and in the fifth produced his best round yet as the pace of the fight seemed to get to Groves at last.
But Froch was in trouble again in the sixth when Groves landed huge left and right hooks that left the Nottingham boxer wobbling.
Groves had started staggering around the ring in the ninth round but it did not seem as though his senses were scrambled or that he was in severe trouble when Foster stunned everyone and stopped the epic encounter.
Groves, who seemed to be heading for a points win, sank to his knees in disbelief at a decision jeered by the crowd – but seems likely to get another chance against Froch given the inevitable clamour for a re-match.
This was Froch’s third defence of his IBF belt and first of his WBA title in what is his third reign as a world champion.
Froch improved to 32 wins, with two defeats, while Groves suffered his first defeat in 20 fights.