Boxing

Carl Froch- not an unbeaten, ten year champ- but how far off Calzaghe is he?

By Alex Harding: I want to set the tone of this article straight away by saying it is a comparison article. I am comparing Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe. But Iím not doing it in the traditional sense. Iím not breaking down the skill set of each man to painstakingly create an outcome of a fight weíll never see. Iíll skip that- I think Joe Calzaghe would have beaten Carl Froch quite comfortably. Calzaghe would have been too fast and too busy for Froch. Thatís my opinion out there straight away.

What Iíd like to compare instead, though slightly premature with Froch still an active boxer, is the legacy of each man as a world champion. Who was/is the better world champion?

Letís talk Calzaghe first. He was a world champion for ten years and for over 20 fights; a feat up there with Bernard Hopkins and Joe Louis. But before we assess the quality of his opponents and his victories I think it is important to move that 46 and 0 out of the way first. Because that figure is like looking up at the sun through a telescope- itís blinding. That record automatically prejudices his career- for the better. For the purpose of this article weíll be using Joe Calazagheís and Carl Frochís championship records but when in the ring against world class opposition. Thatís the best way to cut the fat and skip to the juicy stuff.

Letís define world class. World class is a boxer who regularly mixes with the best boxers in the world and wins his fair share. He doesnít have to win them all but heís no pushover and heís holding his own and getting world shots steadily throughout his career. There are always exceptions to that definition but itís a good place to start from. Below world class is world fringe- someone who regularly gets beaten on the world stage. Above World class is someone pushing to be a hall of famer and then obviously above that is your certified hall of famer.
So letís go back to Joe.

In his first four years as a pro he rattled off 22 victories against the usual learning curve opponents but with a couple of decent challenges thrown in too. When he was 25 he then took on Chris Eubank at the Sheffield Arena. Thatís number one right there. Sure Eubank had been is some battles by then but Eubank was by no means punchy. Throughout his career Calzaghe repeatedly referred to it as hardest fight. He learnt a lot that night. Eubank hadnít mixed with world class fighters from all over the world but there was no doubting that the crop he mixed with inside the UK was pretty special. Why leave the nest if your dinnerís being brought to you?

Then the wait for World class opposition (WCO) (sounds like a proliferated boxing organization) was lengthy. Joe went in with some good British fighters- Woodhall, Starey, and Reid, but they werenít World class. He took on a decent European twice in the shape of Mario Veit but he was very much decent European level and was badly exposed. There were fighters from across the pond: Omar Sheika, Jimenez, Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell. They were billed as world class and they werenít mugs but in the cold light of a comparison article they donít make the cut. In truth these guys were on the world scene, itís just they seemed to get beat on it more than they won on it.

So after quite some wait that brings us onto Jeff Lacey. Ah, poor Jeff Lacey. He didnít leave that ring in the MEN Arena on the 4th March 2006 as a world class fighter but he had certainly walked into it that way. The man had very good amateur pedigree and had been a sensation in his career to that point against the fighters he could get to fight him. He was a wrecking ball that ironically got wrecked. He never recovered from that defeat and has never really had a big victory again but I feel that is more due to injuries and Joe Calzaghe than a lack of talent.

From Lacy you walk straight into another world class opponent- Sakio Bika. At the time he was unheralded but he is a tough guy who has only lost to very good fighters- four of which were unbeaten when he faced them. I think Bika still has a couple of good wins in him as well, maybe a belt.

From there weíve got Mikkel Kessler who is a certified world class fighter. His fight with Calzaghe was very entertaining and very tight. He of course also holds a victory over Carl Froch. Injury permitting Kessler will continue to fight at world level and will probably collect another belt at some point as-well. Kessler could be the decider in this comparison: Calzaghe beat an undefeated Kessler, albeit in Cardiff, while Froch lost to a twice beaten Kessler, although to Frochís credit it was in Kesslerís backyard.

Hopkins and Jones are names that speak for themselves but both fights (especially the Jones contest) where around ten years later than they should have been. For the record I think Hopkins really struggled with Calzaghe and it was the clearest victory over him since his loss to Jones Jr back in Ď93. Jones Jr looked better against Calzaghe than he had against Tarver and Johnson but he looked a well beaten man by the end of the fight. Could you imagine anyone getting away with taunting Jone like Calaghe did back in Jonesí peak?

So that gives us six world class fighters. Four fights were in the U.K. and two were across the pond. Only the Kessler fight was one I would call a great fight, even then it was more technically great than thrill-a-minute great. This is mainly because Joe Calzaghe was too good for the others.

So step up Mr Froch. And step up he has.

He turned pro relatively late- 24- and went about steadily picking off some good British fighters and fringe Europeans.
He then stepped up to his first world class opponent in the shape of Jean Pascal. They put on a fiery spectacle in Nottingham in 2008 with Froch prevailing by smartening up in the later rounds and taking a close UD. Jean Pascal has won a light Heavy weight belt since and put the first zero on Chad Dawsonís record. He might well have night terrors about old men from Philadelphia though.

He wasted no time going straight for world class again, this time against Jermain Taylor. Now, this was by no means an unmarked Taylor- heíd been beaten twice and stopped chillingly on of those occasions. But he turned up and gave Froch almost more than he could handle until finally being worn down and stopped with ten seconds of the contest to go. It was a thrilling win for Froch and an admirable choice to make his first defence of a title against such a threat away from home.
Bring on the Super Six tournament where next up Froch got the technically superb Andre Dirrell, and was maybe a bit lucky that Direll wasnít as brave as he was talented. Dirrell didnít do enough and lost a split decision in a pretty tepid affair. Carl must be credited for pushing the action and trying to make it a fight but it was not vintage Froch. Dirrellís next fight against Arthur Abraham confirmed how good he is but the manner of the win (a KO DQ) and his subsequent health problems have put a question mark over whether heíll be remembered as a world class boxer. My gut says yes but weíll put him down as a maybe.

Then Froch got back to doing what heís got a reputation for- having a proper tear up- with Mikkel Kessler- in Kesslerís home country. But on this occasion he did not get the nod, falling to his first defeat, a UD. For me Froch wasnít busy enough in this fight and though he had Kessler rocking at the end the Dane was the deserved winner. This was a great comeback win for Kessler after losing to Andre Ward and for me he falls into the category of world class boxer who is pushing for a hall of fame legacy.

Then Froch took on the Super Six wrecking ball, Arthur Abraham, who walked into the ring with a competition record of 1 win, 1 loss but two knockouts by his own hands. Froch surprised many people by taking control of the centre of the ring and out boxing Abraham for the majority of the contest. Technically it was Frochís best win to date. Although Abraham had now clocked up three defeats on the trot he is world class, just perhaps not big enough to mix with this era of super middle weight.

That brings us to his most recent fight- a very entertaining affair, though not the highest standard of boxing youíll see, against Glencoffe Johnson. Froch should have been better but at the end of the day he was still too good. He took some good shots from a very game Johnson but was able to clearly out combo his opponent, which was useful because he spent a lot of time on the back foot. Johnson is old- no doubt, but heís more Hopkins old than Jones Jr old. How he keeps fighting the way he does is beyond me, and how he is making super middle is even more baffling. But he is true to the world class definition- he is mixing it up against the best, losing some, winning some, and always giving a good account of himself.
That victory leaves Froch facing Andre Ward next up in the Super Six Final.

So thatís five world class opponents and a maybe.

So hereís the run down.

Carl Froch Joe Calzaghe
Jean Pascal-25 years old, 21-0-0, UK Chris Eubank- 31 years old, 45-2-2, UK
Jermaine Taylor- 31 years old, 28-2-1, U.S.A. Jeff Lacy- 29 years old, 21-0-0, UK
Maybe- Andre Dirrell- 23 years old, 19-0-0 U.K Sakio Bika- 27 years old, 20-1-2, UK
Mikkel Kessler- 31 years old, 42-2-0 Denmark Mikkel Kessler-28 years old, 39-0-0, UK
Arthur Abraham-30 years old, 31-1-0, Finland Bernard Hopkins- 43 years old, 48-4-1, U.S.A
Glencoffee Johnson- 42 years old, 51-14-2 U.S.A Roy Jones Jr- 39 years old, 52-4-0, U.S.A
Next- Andre Ward

The more I look at Bika the more he has to go- he doesnít suit the company heís in. But, I do feel that between Sheika, Brewer, Mitchell and Bika there is a world class opponent there- those four were no mugs when they met Calzaghe. So Iím going to pull Bika and replace him with The No Mug Club- that is Calzagheís sixth opponent. Iím also going to go against my gut and say that Andre Dirrell- for now- canít be called world class though time will hopefully prove me wrong.
So its Frochís five against Calzagheís six.

And the more I compare the list the harder I find it to label one better than the other. Calzaghe has beaten all of his opponents on the list, two of which were unbeaten. He went abroad twice to face the two hall of famers. That- along with the blinding 0 after his victory column- is Calzagheís unique selling point: heís beaten two Hall of Famers. Not just world class boxers but living greats. Though the Jones legend deteriorates with each humiliation.

For Froch my eye is caught by the four victories on foreign soil, three on his rivalís home turf. Thatís a sign of a real champion- not just fighting anyone but fighting them anywhere. Two of his opponents also had their 0 in tact coming into the fight. Plus I like what you canít see on the table above. Froch hasnít fought any deadweight since becoming a world champion. No McIntyreís, Pudwillís, or Ashira Evansí. The names in his column are in chronological order: he is dedicated to taking on the best and will continue to take on the best. I think in the world there are only Hopkins and Pacquiao whose last six opponents can compare to Frochís. The manner of Frochís victories doesnít always impress me however: Iíd like to see more movement... of everything, that left hand not strapped to his waist and a higher work rate, but I always remember his fights. You can say there are three great fights from that list as opposed to one entertaining, keenly contested fight on Calzagheís.

The name of Andre Ward also adds something to the comparison. That will be Frochís sixth World class opponent by my reckoning. That result- the winner of the Super Six tournament- will have a big bearing on his legacy but for my mind he will have then mixed himself with at least as good as opposition as Calzaghe, arguably better.

Maybe Froch is lucky? The Super Six tournament sets itself apart from the rest of the field and means you have to face the best. Heís in an era where there seems to be an abundance of top match-ups. Was that the case in Calzagheís era? Or maybe Froch is just more willing to make these fights happen? If heíd been offered Ottke in Germany like Calzaghe supposedly was you know he would have gone to Germany and fought Ottke. Glen Johnson claims Calzaghe pulled out of a contest with him on four occasions. And would Calzaghe have signed up to a Super Six tournament? Who knows?

And although I said try to forget the zero that follows Calzagheís 46 wins itís difficult to do. Sure, he chalked up a lot of wins and title defences against deadwood but at the same time he never lost a single fight. To keep that focus and find an extra level when itís needed is very difficult.

So in the end Iím undecided. Calzaghe remains and will remain the better boxer. No doubt for me there. But who will be classed the better world champion? I think the comparable fight- the Kessler fight- probably separates them in favour of Calzaghe at present but for me itís closer than most people would think.

Article posted on 08.06.2011



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