Carl Froch clambered up from a shocking first-round knockdown to retain his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles with a controversial ninth-round stoppage of George Groves in Manchester last night.
Froch was floored by a flinging right hand in the opening moments but clawed his way back into the bout and won a spectacular duel when referee Howard Foster jumped in to end the contest in the ninth.
Foster's intervention with Groves still on his feet sparked uproar, with both corner teams briefly squaring off in the ring while a crowd which had started off resolutely pro-Froch roundly cheered the challenger.
Questions were inevitably raised about the eagerness of Foster to end the fight which had rocked and rolled from one fighter to the other and produced some of the finest action seen in a British ring for some time.
Froch was staggered on his feet in a sensational sixth before retaliating with big shots of his own, and the ending when it came seemed premature but in Foster's favour Groves did appear to be offering little resistance.
"Let's have a rematch and sort it out" - Carl Froch
Froch immediately vowed to clear up any discontent by offering Groves a rematch – and insisted referee Foster had no option but to call off the contest.
Froch said: "Howard is a very experienced referee. George had his head low and I had a free shot and the referee had a split-second decision to make. It was dangerous and he had to put the safety of the fighter first.
"Let's have a rematch and sort it out."
Froch admitted Groves' performance had made him change his views on the Londoner, adding: "As a fighter I have never had disrespect for him.
"As a person he was antagonistic towards me and was being disrespectful and rude. I'm a man of my word. He's a good fighter and I've seen what he can do. He's earned more respect from me in the fight.
"We had a chat, he gave me an answer and I respect him for that. I've got a little more respect for him as a fighter and a little more respect as a person.
"He got booed into the arena and he's getting cheered out of it. But let's not forget who won here. It was a very educated decision.
"I get stuck in and that's why everybody loves me. I gave everyone entertainment and I can't be held responsible for what the referee did."
Groves protested against the stoppage, insisting: "He caught me with a good shot but that should never have been a stoppage.
"Because he's got this warrior image, he got the benefit of the doubt. Because I've got this chinny image it was stopped prematurely, in my opinion.
"I know I'm going to be a great fighter. I had it taken away from me tonight. I'll come back better and stronger, and I hope I get that chance."