Can ‘The Cobra’ pounce and defend his crown? Or will he be slain with ‘Bad Intentions’?

Carl FrochBy Danny Jackman - It’s almost ‘Showtime’ as the unbeaten Carl Froch prepares to defend his WBC super middleweight crown in a highly-anticipated fight against former undisputed middleweight champion of the world Jermain Taylor on 4th April at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, in a fight that will surely prove pivotal to the future hopes of both men.

Time is ticking for the man known as ‘The Cobra’; at the age of 31, Froch needs to get a move on if he wants to establish himself amongst the best in today’s sport, and doesn’t he know it. He couldn’t have been scheduled for more difficult first defence of the title he only claimed back in December, in a thrilling contest against the-then unbeaten Canadian Jean Pascal. Fans were treated to a fantastic spectacle that night, as both men went toe-to-toe and traded big punches in front of an ecstatic crowd in Froch’s home city of Nottingham, with the Brit prevailing via the judges’ scorecards; the bout scored 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110 in the home fighters favour. It was a proud night for ‘The Cobra’ - 7 years of hard work was rewarded as he claimed his first world title in front of his adoring home fans.

But if Froch was overjoyed on the night of December 6th, it was probably nothing compared to the feeling Jermain Taylor must have felt as he claimed the undisputed middleweight championship, wrestling away the WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine belts from the legendary Bernard Hopkins, on that night all the way back in July of 2005 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The man from Little Rock, Arkansas emerged victorious after being given the nod by the judges in a close, and viewed by many as controversial, split decision; favoured by judges Duane Ford and Paul Smith as they both scored the bout 115-113, while Jerry Roth’s scorecard read in favour of Hopkins, scoring it 116-112 to the Philadelphia man. He then defeated Hopkins again just less than 5 month later. Same location, different venue – this time at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino – as the man nicknamed ‘Bad Intentions’ was declared the winner this time by unanimous decision, though it was equally as close as their first encounter; all 3 judges scoring the bout 115-113 in favour of Taylor, and equally as controversial.

Taylor went on to defend his middleweight crown a further 3 times in the space of 11 months, with a disputed draw against the legendary Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, a comfortable decision over the hard-working former IBF light middleweight champion Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma, and a close split decision win over tricky southpaw Cory Spinks, the former undisputed welterweight champion and, like Ugandan Ouma, the former IBF titlist at 154 pounds. After losing his crown it was left to Hopkins to rebuild his career after those pair of defeats to Taylor, and he did. Having moved to 175lbs, he secured a win over Roy Jones Jr-conqueror Antonio Tarver – for the Ring Magazine’s recognition as the #1 light-heavyweight on the planet. He also defeated the man Taylor drew with in his first title defence, Winky Wright, and Kelly Pavlik – undisputed middleweight champion the world... and twice victor over ‘Bad Intentions’ himself.

It was those pair of devastating defeats to the unbeaten, big punching man from Youngstown, Ohio, that ended Taylor’s reign at 160lbs – and at Broadwark Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 29th 2007 - shattered his big plans for the future. Pavlik, nicknamed ‘The Ghost’, became the first man to beat Taylor and did so in impressive fashion, stopping him in the 7th round of their clash for Taylor’s WBC and WBO titles. A rematch ended in a similarly bad result for the Little Rock fighter, although this time he managed to last the distance as he dropped a unanimous decision to Pavlik over 12 rounds, in a non-title clash at a catchweight of 164lbs at the MGM Grand.

Taylor has been trying to rebuild his career since those set-backs, and moved up to 168lbs in an attempt to do so. His first and only fight to date at the weight is a comfortable decision win over former Joe Calzaghe victim and ex-IBF champion Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy. That win back in November of last year, billed as a WBC title eliminator, entitled him to a shot at the winner of the Froch-Pascal clash the month after.

The clash between Froch and Taylor on 4th April not only represents a contest between two very good professionals, but also two outstanding amateurs. Froch was twice an ABA nationals champion at middleweight, back in 1999 and 2001, though the highlight of his amateur career came as he picked up a medal alongside fellow Brit David Haye in the World Championships that same year, having lost to eventual winner Andrey Gogolev of Russia in the semi-finals. Taylor also picked up a bronze medal in a major championship having lost to an eventual winner, in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney at the 71kg light-middle weight. Having become the first fighter from Arkansas ever to represent the US at the Olympics, he defeated Dmitry Usagin, Canadian Scott MacIntosh, who he beat in qualifying for the Games, and German Adnan Catic – now known Felix Sturm, the WBA middleweight champion of the world – to reach semi-finals before ultimately losing to gold-medal winner Yermakhan Ibraimov of Kazakhstan.

These two men therefore have pedigree going into this super-middleweight title clash, as both amateurs and professionals, Taylor is the more established of the two and arguably has the better wins, but Froch brings an undefeated record, a big punch, is more natural at the weight and of course is the champion. It bares an interesting clash of attributes aswell, Froch relies on his power and ability to take a punch to get him through fights, and of the two arguably has the better stamina – an area where Taylor has some issues, but the latter has far better handspeed, and is the more accomplished boxer. There are many intangibles tied in the fight. For instance, can Taylor cope with Froch’s power? He’s been stopped before, albeit by the hard-hitting Pavlik at 160, however Jeff Lacy had him down on the canvas in their eliminatory clash 5 months ago – although it wasn’t officially called a knockdown by the referee, it was certainly an uncomfortable moment for Jermain and he looked shaken. Can he also deal with Froch’s stamina? ‘The Cobra’ was trading blow-for-blow with Pascal all the way to the 12th round in their title clash, while Taylor been known to slow late on in fights. On the contrary, many argue Froch won’t be able to deal with Taylor’s speed, and argue that will win him the fight, along with his more savvy boxing skills.

It seems to be the general consensus that Taylor will have to box his way to a decision win to snatch the WBC belt, or Froch will have to power his way to a knockout to defend his crown. Both are certainly possible scenarios, both guys are sharp and determined going into this fight, and pre-fight words between the two has sparked the contest into life before the bell has even rang. But who will prevail from the fight victorious? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, it’ll be a helluva fight.

Article posted on 08.04.2009

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