Carl Froch, Treading the Path

Carl FrochBy Michael Klimes: When a young person is ambitious and is attempting to make their own way in the world, he will inevitably look back to those who have preceded him to find inspiration. If he is fortunate, he will not only locate inspiration but a model for success. The potential dilemma is that one ends up, whether one likes it or not competing with the inspirer. This can be very daunting...if you are a playwright and are influenced by Shakespeare the idea that you can live up to or surpass his literary achievements is just about impossible and even deluded.

It is a bizarre and amusing thought but it would probably be easier to beat Shakespeare in a boxing match rather than out write the fellow. Ironically for some boxers in certain cases it has been the other way around. Larry Holmes did not find it hard to beat the faded Muhammad Ali in 1980 but he never captured the public imagination or their affection in the same way Ali did. Lennox Lewis had a similar problem after vanquishing Mike Tyson.

As Joe Calzaghe set out on his professional journey in the early 1990s, it could not have been easy for him to think that he would be compared to the considerable triumvirate of Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Michael Watson. Now he can rest assured that he is the best super middleweight of all time and is ultimate standard by which others in the division will be measured. He even started off in an exhilarating fashion by defeating the old but still troublesome Eubank in 1997.

When Carl Froch won his title on Saturday night, it was in a style that was reminiscent of the Benn-Eubank-Watson bouts and Calzaghe’s effort against Eubank. There was drama, passion and fierce competition. Froch’s opponent - Jean Pascal was a fine adversary who had never been defeated and showed the ability to box, punch and absorb a nasty shot. The crowd definitely received their money’s worth. It was one of the finest fights British boxing has seen at the world class level for some years and it is encouraging to witness a talented British fighter come along and pick up a world championship Calzaghe has just vacated. Also, Froch is still relatively fresh compared to other boxers of his age and that means he should be a around for many years to come.

However, I am not as smitten with Froch’s win as other pundits are. The eloquent broadcaster Barry McGuigan whom I rarely disagree with made a statement to the effect that Froch is the number one super middleweight in the world. Sorry Barry but I have to disagree. Mikkel Kessler is the best in the weight class based on his career accomplishments and deeper experience. Although Froch demonstrated his grit and tenacity he took far too many punches. I say this far too often but it is good to remind ourselves of Larry Merchant’s sound wisdom, “It is a virtue to be able to take a punch but not a virtue to take too many.” There were countless instances during the fight when Froch could have minimised the punishment he sustained by just holding his hands up. He has good reflexes, so why he does not couple that with a tighter guard is beyond me. Fighters like Arturo Gatti endear themselves to the fans but that does not translate into long careers. I remember Bernard Hopkins saying that if he had fought like Gatti, he would not be revered as the modern day Archie Moore.

So it is congratulations to Froch and Pascal for producing a classic. Froch should revel in his exciting victory but realise there are elements of his boxing he needs to improve. He has tremendous power but when he realised he could not knock out Pascal, he had to employ his jab and footwork to gain the momentum in the fight. It showed a degree of versatility but if Froch wants to fight someone who has a phenomenal jab like Mikkel Kessler, he needs to develop a guard or his face will be disfigured. Kessler is by no means a master boxer – he is an excellent one though who does have limitations. He is not effective on the inside, partially due to his physical dimensions but he fights on the outside so well with a time tested formula: the jab and right hand combination that only one master boxer has been able to remove his command of the distance by fighting on the inside. That was Calzaghe of course. Factor in Kessler’s very good right hand upper cut, decent left hook, quick hands, chin and intelligence and you have one of the best fighters in the world.

Froch is dreaming of Calzaghe but he will not stand a chance against the nimble Welshman if he does not improve his defence and get more seasoning against Kessler, Jermaine Taylor, Librado Andrade and Lucien Bute beforehand. Perhaps Froch may one day be the super middleweight youngsters think of as they try and make their own reputations in the ring. He is a champion and at the beginning of bigger and better things. Nevertheless, he is still the apprentice and not the teacher as he works to be called the heir of Calzaghe. He follows the long and lonely path trodden by Calzaghe for all those years in search of the mantle.

Article posted on 11.12.2008

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