Froch-Groves II locked in for May 31

Six months after their hugely controversial fight, unified super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch and top contender George Groves agreed to terms for a rematch on May 31 at a British site to be determined, Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn announced Thursday.

The deal concluded weeks of acrimonious negotiations and the threat by Froch to walk away from the fight to pursue a summer match in the United States against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But that would have meant Froch would have been stripped of his one his belts -- the IBF had ordered the rematch -- and, even more significantly, he probably would never be able to live down cries from the British public that he had ducked Groves after what happened the first time around.

They met Nov. 23 before a sold-out crowd of 21,000 at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England, and produced an action-packed fight that ended with Froch being awarded a highly controversial ninth-round knockout victory.

Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) knocked down Froch (32-2, 23 KOs) with a right hand in the first round, dominated the fight and was ahead on all three scorecards going into the ninth round. In the ninth, Froch hurt Groves, but while Groves was firing back -- and he had not been knocked down -- referee Howard John Foster shockingly stopped the fight, causing an uproar. Even many of Froch's fans criticized the stoppage.

In the weeks that followed, Froch refused to entertain a rematch but Groves appealed to the IBF for one. The appeal was heard last month and the IBF, which reviewed video of the bout, ordered a sequel based on what it called "inappropriate conduct" of the referee.

Froch then reconsidered his stance on the rematch and made a deal just ahead of the IBF-imposed deadline for a purse bid.

"I'm pleased to finally get my next fight confirmed," Froch said. "We had a number of options but ultimately I listened to the public and gave them what they wanted. I expect this to be one of the biggest fights the country [of England] has ever seen.

"It's been a difficult period for me following the first fight. I've had to listen to his endless whining and appeals when ultimately the referee did him perhaps the biggest favor possible and saved him from a devastating knockout, whilst denying me the right of a clinical finish and a great comeback victory."

Groves, 25, and Froch, 36, engaged in trash talk throughout the promotion of the first bout and developed a strong dislike for each other. Groves is pleased to get the second chance many believed he deserved.

"I feel blessed that I am getting this fantastic opportunity to participate in what could be Britain's biggest-ever boxing match," Groves said. "I am still shocked that Froch has agreed to take the fight. I respect him for his bravery. Now I am preparing to get in the greatest physical and mental shape possible to destroy Froch in what can only be a three-round fight. Britain will have its own Hagler-Hearns to talk about for years to come. I am counting down the days until I'm world super middleweight champion."

Froch said he needs to be better than he was in the November fight.

"I was poor in the first fight," Froch said. "I didn't give him the respect as a fighter and lacked the drive that I had against Lucian Bute and Mikkel Kessler. Well, now he has my attention. But ultimately it's not going to get any better for George from here. He threw the kitchen sink at me that night and I still found a way back in the fight to win. I love to fight and I can't wait to get back in there and do a proper job in him."

The fight will air on Sky Sports Boxing Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom. No American television plans were announced.

"Quite simply, I believe this is the biggest fight in British boxing history," Hearn said. "Taking away the controversy from their first encounter, it was one of the most epic and exhilarating fights I have ever witnessed and I'm delighted the public are going to get a chance to see it all again. The unanswered questions from the first fight may now be answered. Get ready for a whirlwind of a build-up and an event and fight for the ages."