The legendary fight venue that is York Hall, Bethnal Green in the heart of London saw the birth of yet another future world champion 18 years ago today. Punching for pay for the first time at the venue on March 16, 2002 was super-middleweight Carl Froch. Relatively old for a 168 pound fighter having their pro debut, Froch was 24 and he defeated a guy named Michael Pinnock via fourth round TKO.
Froch, known as “The Cobra,” had five fights in 2002, winning all but one by stoppage. An amazing talent from the start, with fans and experts knowing it, Froch set about winning titles. First, in March of 2004, at just 12-0, Froch defeated Charles Adamu to win the Commonwealth title. Then, the following September, Froch added the British belt to his growing collection with a first round stoppage win over Damon Hague.
Froch never fought for the European title, instead, after defending his Commonwealth and British titles numerous times, Froch challenged for the vacant WBC super-middleweight title. And what a fight Froch and Jean Pascal, also unbeaten, put on in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham in December of 2008. An absolute slugfest for all 12 rounds, the Froch-Pascal battle saw both men give their all in a genuine FOTY candidate. The two men had a handshake deal that they would fight again but, for whatever reason or reasons, they never did meet again.
Froch set about attaining greatness. An epic win over Jermain Taylor came next, with Froch, way behind on points, pulling out the stoppage win in the fading seconds of the 12th and final round. Pretty soon, Froch was known the world over as a throwback fighter with an almost ludicrous resume: Andre Dirrell, unbeaten, fell next, via close decision, Mikkel Kessler, in another truly great fight, became the first man to beat Froch, via close decision, then Froch came back with a solid win over Arthur Abraham, then a hard decision win over the teak-tough Glen Johnson came, then a close (on two cards) points loss to Andre Ward.
Was Froch now done? Not a chance.
Scoring a smashing fifth round stoppage over an unbeaten Lucian Bute in May of 2012, Froch was back on top. After an easy defence against Yusaf Mack, Froch then avenged the loss to Kessler, picking up a decision victory of his own. What a pity these two never engaged in a rubber-match. Instead, Froch twice fought bitter British rival George Groves. Hurt bad and dropped in the opening round of the first fight, Froch came back to pound out a hugely controversial stoppage win in the ninth round.
There had to be a return, and there was. This time fully prepared and focused, Froch scored a definitive eighth round KO, famously “in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley.” It was the perfect swansong for Froch, a three-time world champion who had done it all. The loss to Ward aside, Froch defeated every man he ever faced.
Retiring at 33-2(24) Froch has to be ranked as one of the greatest British fighters in history.