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Carl Froch defends titles against Groves

AP - Sports

MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- On his path to becoming Britain's best current boxer, Carl Froch has encountered some of the sport's top fighters - Andre Ward, Mikkel Kessler and Jermain Taylor, to name a few.

It has been surprising, then, to see Froch become so riled by an upstart like George Groves ahead of their all-British super-middleweight title fight on Saturday.

Froch is putting his WBA and IBF belts - as well as his reputation - on the line in Manchester and, boasting a bigger punch and much more experience, is a clear favorite with most pundits to take his record to 32-2.

But he hasn't been his usual cool self in his pre-fight face-offs. He's appeared tense and irritated, giving Groves - unbeaten in 19 fights - growing belief that he has claimed the psychological edge before one of the biggest bouts in Britain for some time.

''I'm not going to shake his hand, give him a kiss and a hug, say don't worry you'll come back and do something in the future when I retire, because I don't like the guy,'' Froch said. ''And I'm going to show you how much I don't like him on Saturday.''

Froch was the first to react when they came face-to-face at Friday's weigh-in, speaking in the ear of Groves and gently butting his opponent.

''Nothing would be worse than an 'L' to this guy,'' Froch said Friday. ''It would be devastating.''

For Groves, it is a chance to avenge a humiliating incident in 2010 when he was floored by Froch in sparring ahead of the latter's first fight against Kessler.

''To be honest, I was pulling my punches when I hit him,'' Froch recalled. ''I sort of hit him with a half a shot as I knew it was going to land, so I pulled it and it still decked him - and he's been knocked out a few times.''

That was more than three years ago, though, and Groves has blossomed since then, achieving a breakthrough victory over James DeGale in 2011 to become British and Commonwealth middleweight champion and winning six more times since then - the last three by knockout.

Froch is a big step up, but Groves is not lacking in self-confidence.

He got rid of his coach, Adam Booth, in September and in the official pre-fight news conference, Groves surprised Froch by revealing what his tactics will be: Meeting the champion in the center of the ring and landing two right hands early on. He'll do the same in the second round, Groves claimed.

''I've never been knocked out but Carl says I'm chinny,'' Groves said. ''Carl says he's got one-punch knockout power but he doesn't really knock out too many people.

''We're not talking about me fighting Andre Ward, the No. 1. I know I'm still a little way off beating Ward, but Froch is a different story altogether.''

A rematch with Ward is Froch's ultimate target after losing to the American in December 2011. But having bounced back since with victories over Lucien Bute and Kessler, he'll need to see off a young compatriot first before seeing if Ward is open for another fight.

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