George Groves put in a performance against Carl Froch at the Manchester Phones4U Arena that will go down in boxing history as one of the most sensational and audacious seen in the ring in many a year. All the way through the build up to the fight, Carl Froch had talked like a man who was going to roll over the challenger like a juggernaut, rattled by the younger man's extraordinary confidence and self belief.
Yet when they entered the ring it was Groves who appeared calm and focused, while the champion appeared agitated, nervous even. You sensed then that this was going to be special.
Groves told us he was going to come out, take the centre of the ring and engage with the four time world champion. No one believed him. Most believed his only chance lay in staying on the back foot and utilising his movement to avoid Froch's power, while countering.
Yet George Groves did exactly as he'd promised, beating Froch to the jab again and again and countering with a right hand that soon began to find the mark, forcing the champion back. When Groves put him down with ten seconds left of the first round with a crushing right hand, the fight looked all but over. However Carl Froch confirmed his reputation as a warrior by somehow getting up and surviving to the bell. Even so his legs still looked to be gone when he came out at the start of the second, and indeed over the next four rounds Groves proceeded to bully and batter him around the ring, in the process winning over a sell out crowd that had roundly booed his ring entrance.
Froch looked like a fighter who was turning old overnight, desperately trying to find a way back into a fight that he'd already looked to have lost, while Groves grew in stature, delighting in proving all of the doubters wrong in exchange after exchange.
Groves' tactic of jabbing Froch to the chest was effective throughout, keeping the champion off balance while teeing up the right hand. The question was could he keep it up?
By the eighth Groves tired as Froch sucked it up and appeared to catch a second wind. By now it was a ragged affair, both men fuelled by sheer will and desire. No matter, even when Froch had him against the ropes, Groves remained in the fight, countering in between Froch's by now ponderous punches as the fight approached the championship rounds. Pulsating, electrifying - words don't come close to capturing what everyone knew by now was an epic.
The crowd's reaction when referee Howard Foster stepped in to stop the fight in the ninth after Froch hurt his opponent for the first time in the entire fight said it all. The ref did what he thought was right and with just seconds to decide, he erred on the side of caution. Regardless, he deprived both George Groves and Carl Froch of the ending such an epic battle deserved. Moreover he earned himself a dubious place in boxing history.
Carl Froch left the arena as the loser and Groves the champion in the hearts and minds of the crowd in the arena and no doubt the majority of the millions watching it on TV. Carl Froch's career has overnight been reduced to two options: a rematch against George Groves or retirement. Such is the cruel and unforgiving nature of the sport, despite Carl Froch waking up on Sunday morning still the champion, it's a fair belt he didn't feel like one. He will have been hurt by the negative reaction of the crowd to his postfight interview ringside. For a man as proud as he is and with a deserved reputation as a warrior in the ring, this is not how he will want his career to end.
But how many more ring wars can a 36-year-old body take? Worse, in his heart, he will know that he's just had the hardest fight of 11 years as a professional. Given the aformentioned, nobody could blame him for calling it a day.
When the dust clears from this brutal contest all will be revealed. But until it does let's savour the night when a young fighter entered the arena to a crescendo of boos and left a hero.
George Groves may have lost the fight, but in the battle of hearts and minds of the British sporting public there was only one winner.
Step forward the newly crowned star of British boxing.