By Richard Najdowski
On Saturday night in Nottingham, England, Carl "The Cobra" Froch will put his IBF super middleweight title on the line against Yusaf Mack. Froch (29-2, 21 KO's), an overwhelming favorite, would be proclaimed the winner without stepping into the ring, if odds and stats and recent history were accurate predictors. Thankfully, they aren’t, and so the show goes on.
This will be the 9th consecutive championship fight The Cobra has fought since December 2008, when he gave Jean Pascal his first loss, and claimed the WBC super middleweight belt in the process. With the exception of top contender Andre Dirrell, every fighter Froch faced in his championship run has been a world champion.
Four of them were lineal champions.
The man Froch beat for his first 168 pound title, Jean Pascal, went on to become a lineal champ at 175 pounds. His first defense of that title would be against Jermain Taylor, just three fights removed from a two-year run as middleweight king.
His entrance into the Super Six finals came with a 12-round points win over former lineal light heavyweight king Glen Johnson in a spirited battle. The finale was determined a fitting stage to crown a new true super middleweight king, with Andre Ward taking that honor, handing Froch the second loss of his career in the process.
Froch rebounded from the Ward fight by relieving Lucian Bute of his undefeated record and IBF title, while demonstrating to the world that he has done more than enough to be universally considered the second best fighter at 168 pounds.
On Saturday night, he will square off against a non-champion for the first time since May 2008.
This won't be the first time Yusaf Mack (31-4-2, 17 KOs) has challenged for title. Most every time Mack has stepped up in competition, he has been brutally knocked out – once in his lone title bid prior to tonight, and the other three occasions resulting in his conqueror going on to earn a title shot.
Alejandro Berrio stopped him in six rounds for his first career loss back in May ’06, where a win would have guaranteed Mack a shot at the super middleweight title. Librado Andrade knocked him out in seven rounds more than a year later, though had to climb off the canvas in order to do so. Andrade would next challenge Mikkel Kessler, then an unbeaten super middleweight title claimaint.
Glen Johnson managed to re-enter the title fray after thrice dropping Mack en route to a 6th round knockout in Feb. ’10. One fight later, Mack finally won a fight that mattered in squeaking past Otis Griffin in a light heavyweight eliminator. The glory didn’t last long, as defending titlist Tavoris Cloud hammered the Philadelphian en route to an 8th round stoppage last June on HBO.
The lone common opponent between tonight’s combatants is Johnson. There is some relevance, as their respective fights against the former champ came just 16 months apart. Froch handled his business; Mack did not.
Come fight night, common opponents are just that - common opponents. When it's Froch and Mack trading punches in the Capital FM Arena, it'll be insignificant that Mack is a 33:1 underdog by at least one oddsmaker.
Maybe the added pressure of being a huge favorite will hurt Froch and aid Mack, who will be fighting at his lowest weight in five years.
Many people believe that champions are made during their training camps. It’s conceivable that Froch took the training for this fight lightly and didn’t bleed and sweat and hit the punching bag like a champion needs to. Elite boxers have been known to do this, especially against a perceived lesser challenge. Just because Froch claims to be in a championship state of mind does not mean he is.
This is championship boxing. One ring. Two fighters. No three knockdown rule. Four fists covered with punching gloves. Accompanying this night are two neverending lists - one consisting of underdogs becoming victorious, the other consisting of champions demonstrating why they are champions in the first place.
We already know Carl Froch is a champion. Win or lose, he’s earned the right to be referred to as “Champ” for the remainder of his days.
On Saturday night, over a span of twelve rounds or less, Yusaf Mack will clear up the uncertainty about whether he, too, is worthy of the championship label.