Carl Froch Banishes Gutsy Challenge Of Mark Woolnough

03.06.04 - By Elliot Worsell: Nottingham’s prodigal son Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch delighted his hometown fans tonight, as he successfully negotiated a gruelling first defence of his recently acquired commonwealth title in 11 rounds. Late notice opponent Mark Woolnough of Canada, brought in to fill the void left by British champion Tony Dodson’s withdrawal, emphatically played his part in the action filled bout, wearing his heart on his sleeve and posing many problems to the young champion throughout.

Ultimately though, it was Froch who deserved the spoils at the Ice Arena. Naturally disappointed and deflated due to the absence of archrival Dodson, the 26 year old showed a champion’s mentality in raising his game and coming to terms with the elusive, ambitious and undeniably tough US based challenger, who was intent on capitalising on any lack of focus Froch may have carried into this bout.

The game Woolnough, raised in Britain and a Canadian native from the age of 11, started the contest cautiously, wheeling away on the back foot, prepared to let the heavy handed Froch lead off. Froch, as a fading Charles Adamu found out in the latter rounds of their championship rumble in March, does his best work when marching forward dictating the pace.

In the opening sessions Woolnough retreated to the ropes, with Froch feverishly following. The Canadian national champion showed a crisp and fast right jab and pinging left cross that teased the chin of Froch as he approached with his fists directed south. With only four stoppage wins from eighteen contests though, Woolnough was always going to struggle to make an impression on the sturdy and vibrant champion in front of him. Froch, a man who perhaps has too much self-belief in his solid jaw, and takes too many unnecessary blows given the reflexes he possesses, was cocking his potent right cross from the very first round.

Woolnough was shaken momentarily by a zooming right in the first, as he succumbed to a neutral corner, and ran out of space to weave and move away. It was a sign of things to come, as Woolnough would time and time again be cut off into corners that he didn’t want to inhabit.

In the second round, Woolnough, who looked in tremendous shape, and had been deep into preparations for a fight on the 12th of June, before accepting this dream title opportunity, began showing his undoubted pedigree. He rattled Froch a couple of times with well placed straight left’s down the guard, and was beginning to bounce around the ring, picking impressive jabs and counter left’s as Froch loaded up hurtful leads from his left and right fists.

The key to Woolnough’s early successes was his ability to throw two and three punch combinations whilst retreating to the ropes. Froch, with his left hand characteristically low, was taken by surprise as the sprightly Canadian pounced. However, with a right hand as authoritative as the self proclaimed ‘Cobra’s, any slip in dominance can be altered in a jot. Pawing the jab out, finding his range, and then giving his right hand room to roam, Froch was finding Woolnough’s jaw an inviting target. Woolnough, for his part, showed decent upper body movement and defensive skills to avoid a lot of Froch’s wild lunges, which didn’t have the effect the many Nottingham fans in attendance, would have you think.

The third and fourth were decent rounds for Froch, and whether it was by brash facial expressions or cocky ring antics, he let everyone know. The Nottingham hero showed impressive variety in the 3rd and 4th, eyeing up the sitting target Woolnough was offering, and rattling off four and five punch combinations to head and body that had the Canadian slickster in moments of bother. Woolnough was not without success though, and purely due to the loose nature of Froch’s defences, was finding the ex amateur star easy to tag on the counter. The difference was, as expected, all down to power and purpose. When Woolnough was caught clean, he knew he’d been stamped, when Froch was rattled, he motored through the pain.

The challenger came out for the 5th full of intent, and was finding Froch an easy aim to hone his fast left hands on. One big left in particular brought about a wry smile from the confident champion, and if Froch had dispelled the hopes of Woolnough pre fight, he knew he was in a tough dual now. Woolnough was showing no signs of wilting, and as expected, possessed a granite chin and steely attitude.

Time and time again though, Froch would show the ring craft of an experienced champion as he finished each and every round the more dominant force. In the middle rounds it was no longer single right hands being geared for Woolnough’s chin, but punches in bunches, left’s and right’s, haymaker’s and tin opening jabs. In other words, the best of Carl Froch. Woolnough, obviously comfortable fighting off the ropes, and pick pocketing cute counterpunches, was being overawed in the 6th as Froch simply outworked him and out punched him.

The crisp nature of Froch’s work deteriorated in the 7th, as Woolnough strutted forward more and showed willingness to take control of the fight. When he pressed the issue, and flicked out his razor sharp jab and left cross combination, he looked a class act. Froch was becoming increasingly flat-footed, and was wailing away with punches void of any accuracy. The zip had gone out of the Nottingham man’s work momentarily, and Woolnough was still in there pitching and tagging Carl with sneaky left’s and right’s up close.

Any hopes of Woolnough turning the tables however, were banished almost instantly by Froch, as he roared back in the 8th, hurting the teak tough southpaw on numerous occasions. A solid left uppercut early in the session had Woolnough holding on, and body shots were leaving him sagging up against the ropes with both elbows tucked in and used as his only protection. Woolnough was still in the contest, simply because he kept firing back. Nothing would deter the go getting challenger. He was shipping big shots from Froch, but was so game and tough.

Froch continued the to maintain the foothold had on this contest in the 9th and 10th rounds, as he bossed Woolnough along the ropes. Mark was talented enough to make the hard hitting champion miss on occasion, but with Froch throwing shots in two’s and three’s, he was always likely to be nailed by follow ups. One surprise left hand from Woolnough in the 9th stunned Froch momentarily, and suggested the 23 year old packed more power than the four stoppage wins etched onto his resume suggested. Froch gave a rueful glance in return, and just further emphasised the fact that he had been hurt by the well-picked counter shot.

The two determined combatants traded desperately along the ropes, with Froch getting the better of most exchanges due to his superior power and the fact that he was fighting on the front foot. Froch is at his most dominant when he’s digging his toes into the canvas, and staring directly into the eyes of a sitting target pegged up on the ropes. Woolnough was playing into his hands by lounging in the neutral corner. A big right hook in the 10th from Froch wobbled the legs of Woolnough and caused him to cover up in a grave attempt to foil any further punishment. Froch knew he had his man on the verge, and was not about to let up. He unleashed a substantial volley of shots on the Canadian, but couldn’t force the gritty challenger to wane. The ferocity of Froch’s attacks were however, a sign of things to follow in the subsequent round.

Froch, heavily ahead on points going into the 11th, rubber stamped his fine victory with a penultimate round burst that issued a much deserved stoppage victory. Woolnough deserved to hear the final bell, but couldn’t keep sustaining the kind of punishment being forced upon him. A right cross initially gained Woolnough’s attention in Froch’s corner, and a follow up barrage of uppercuts, hooks and forceful right’s down the pipe had Woolnough badly reeling around the ropes. Froch showed good finishing instincts to track the progress of the wayward Canadian, and force a hesitant Dave Parris into stopping the now very one sided battle. Parris duly obliged, as Woolnough slumped on the ropes, covered his face with his gloves, and sucked up the punishment being dealt out to him. There was nothing coming back anymore, and the stoppage was well timed.

The dogged commonwealth titleholder had notched up a noteworthy stoppage win over an extremely efficient young challenger, who can most definitely come again at this kind of level. Following a helter skelter points win over Charles Adamu in March, Froch had to endure a similar kind of test tonight in Nottingham, but on both occasions has shown a steely resolve that can simply not be bought. Mark Woolnough, born and raised in Essex, would be welcome back to these shores anytime. It says a lot when the away fighter gets given an equally raucous reception as the home boxer at the end of a contest.

Article posted on 03.06.2004

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