Carl Froch: A soldier’s salute

By Mark Klimaszewski: I started following Carl Froch closely after the superb way he first gained the WBC strap in that epic showdown in Nottingham against then-to-be light heavyweight ruler Jean Pascal. It sure was a thriller and in the eyes of fight fans, was the shape of things to come. The fact that he vowed to face anyone, anywhere in a bid to become known as a true warrior only cemented my keen interest in this exciting scrapper.

In his first defence he looked poor through most of the fight; I specifically remember noticing a huge visual gulf in class between him and Jermain Taylor, which was also apparent to the ‘casual’ viewers who I watched it with. Certainly for the first 10 or 11 rounds, I felt sorry for Froch- here was a man who’d looked damn good in gaining the title, yet it appeared was being ‘exposed’ whilst traveling across the pond to defend it in a marquee name’s backyard. He looked nervous in himself, looked totally flustered after hitting the deck (in a career first) and looked like he had no answer for Taylor’s superior skill. The fact he was ignoring Robert McCracken’s advice in the corner only frustrated even more. But, he dug deep and, as we all know, pulled it out in the last round to overwhelm Taylor with ferocity and score a spectacular KO. His post fight comments were smug and he even implied that the final round KO was his ‘game plan’ from the start (which I had to chuckle at), but still: a win was a win, and I was intrigued to see where he went next.

The Super Six tournament came off and Carl was in. Some of the things being said by Froch in the prelude to the tournament had me cringing in disbelief. Was this man really that arrogant or was he a deadpan genius? Putting himself in the same sentence as Hagler, Leonard and Hearns (and adding that he would’ve beaten all of them) had people wondering: is this guy for real? His first outing against Andre Dirrell was a poor effort, failing to cut the ring off effectively against a man who had no intention of mixing it up. Etching out a very controversial split decision, Carl seemed to think that he’d beaten Dirrell convincingly and looked ahead to the next round of the tournament.

In what was expected to be the pick of the bunch of all match-ups in the Super Six, Froch bravely went to Herning, Denmark and faced the Viking warrior- Mikkel Kessler- in a hostile, pro-Kessler atmosphere. Seemingly unfazed by any ‘away disadvantages’ Froch went to war and fought tooth and nail against an incredibly game Kessler, coming up short on the cards. The fight was a thriller, and although I had huge respect for the way Carl carried himself in the fight (it really could’ve gone either way), his post fight whining and extended bitching about a ‘hometown decision’ started to grate. The fact Kessler pulled out of the tournament needing eye surgery only hardened Froch’s belief that he’d destroyed the Dane and he was quite vocal in expressing this.

Following his first defeat, Froch had another seemingly hard task ahead of him in ‘King’ Arthur Abraham. A duality began to exist regarding the man from Nottingham- while his trash talking and smug self belief had people berating him, his consistently tough string of opponents was winning people over. After all, if a fighter fights the best level of opposition available to him, it leaves very little for the fans to moan about. Obviously the Super Six worked in his favour regarding his fight schedule. And the fans were the winners. Carl’s easy work of Abraham shocked everyone, myself included, as he displayed a fluidity and ring generalship rarely seen in a Froch fight. Abraham barely won a round and Froch had seemed to improve into more of a boxer-puncher, not giving the Armenian an inch. This boded well, and Carl’s post-fight smugness was now becoming easier to ignore.

Onto his most recent effort then, against an old but still dangerous Glen Johnson. Of course, Froch made some ridiculous comments in the pre-fight hype, but I, like many others, wasn’t taking any notice of what came out of his mouth by this point. A lot of fight fans are now resigned to the fact that the man can be way over-confident with what he says, but are happy to see him do his talking in the ring. Froch looked far from his best against Johnson, but managed to secure a place in the final with a close but clear win. However, I was a little alarmed to see his skills apparently regress back to the pre-Abraham days. Admittedly, this could just be a case of Abraham being tailor made for Carl to look good against due to his short reach, inactive turtle shell game plan and smaller, weaker frame. But nevertheless, I thought the WBC champ had improved greatly in the Abraham fight and I had high hopes that he would improve with each subsequent bout in the tournament and beyond.

So, an interesting journey for the Nottingham man and no mistake. From his humble days (pre-world titles) of calling out Joe Calzaghe left, right and centre (a fight in which Froch was fortunate not to get) to facing the man many deem to be ‘the man to beat’ at 168lbs later this year: Andre ‘Son Of God’ Ward.

A very tough fight for The Cobra, but that’s nothing new. By now, he at least must be very mentally settled and not perturbed by the thought of facing another difficult opponent. All in a day’s work. And that is why, despite his shortcomings and sometimes cringe-worthy self hype, Carl Froch has built up quite a fan base. The majority of people in the know claim he won’t fair well against the highly skilled (but not nearly as exciting) WBA champ Ward. I am inclined to agree, but if he can implement more of a boxer’s approach against Ward his chances will increase greatly. Trying to out-muscle Ward will just result in frustration as Ward will pick him off at will. But with some ring intelligence (and maybe even- shock- listening to his corner!) The Cobra isn’t about to scale an impossible wall. He can make it more competitive than most would give him credit for and even if he does comes a second in the Super Six, he will be the man with more fans and surely, a bigger draw for future bouts. Right now Carl Froch is in a win-win situation, and fair play to him. Roll on the Super Six Final.

Article posted on 13.06.2011

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