By Terence Dooley
Carl Froch hopes to provide the British boxing scene with a ray of sunlight ahead of the New Year by beating America’s Andre Ward in the Super Six final on Saturday night. Froch and Ward are putting their WBC and WBA titles on the line in Atlantic City, IBF titlist Lucian Bute has stated that he will take on the winner to unify the super-middleweight division sometime in 2012 and the future looks rosy at 168lbs.
A win for Froch would gloss over a tough year for Britain’s title holders. Amir Khan lost his WBA and IBF light-welterweight belts last weekend after dropping a split-decision to Lamont Peterson in Washington DC, scores of 112-113, twice, and 115-110. David Haye came short against Wlad Klitschko in the summer, losing his WBA heavyweight belt after failing to make an impression on the big Ukrainian. If Froch were to lose his belt WBO light-heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly would be our only title holder, Ricky Burns has the WBO interim lightweight belt but has yet to be recognised as their full champion.
Cleverly, though, is currently a small fish in a big pond, Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud are ranked above the Welshman. Nathan needs to get some big wins under his belt before he can be considered a genuine rival to the division’s marquee names.
Khan’s loss to Peterson, which included point deductions in the seventh and twelfth, started off as a stutter step on Amir’s road to elite bouts only for subsequent events, including Amir’s post-fight interview and Golden Boy’s declaration that they will launch an appeal against the verdict, to further alienate US fans, many of whom had warmed to the Bolton man after last December’s win over Rene Marcos Maidana. If Amir and his promotional team continue to dispute the defeat and performance of the referee, which was mixed to be fair, it will lead to a continued erosion of his image.
Still, Joseph Cooper was woefully out of his depth, warning Khan often throughout the fight whilst ignoring Peterson’s infringement, one has to question the wisdom of appointing a local official who had not refereed a world title bout since 2010 and who livened up the final instructions by hollering a stream of nonsense, presumably an attempt at a catchphrase, into the camera.
In Cooper’s defence, Amir knew that the fussy official did not appreciate the pushes and was on his case, which makes it all the more puzzling that he continued to push Peterson off in the final round, a move that ultimately cost him a majority draw on the cards and hints at a lack of in-ring intelligence on the former champion’s part. Had Khan taken in the warnings, analysed the situation and used his own movement to create space in the fight then he would still be holding his belts.
Ironically, Khan’s footwork may have been another factor. At times his lateral movement walked the thin line between circling and running, judges often score for the other fighter in rounds where one guy is using his legs a lot. Again, it is another lesson for the 25-year-old to take onboard and will come in useful should he avenge the defeat in 2012 and eye a move to the next level. For now talk of Mayweather will be put to one side, a huge positive as it would be hard to envisage Amir taking more than a round or two should he have met Floyd at this stage of their careers.
As it stands, last weekend’s bout has divided opinion, there are a few claims that hometown cooking cost Amir his titles – laughable, really, if you look at the fight posters, which featured both Golden Boy Promotions and Khan Promotions logos. Location aside, Amir was the ‘home’ fighter from a promotional standpoint and the claims of GBP only serve to diminish their man’s reputation.
All told, it was a mixed weekend for the British boxer, who passed the big fight baton onto Carl Froch when speaking to Sky Sports about Ward-Froch. “Ward is one of the best fighters of the world so it will be a good win if Froch can get it,” said Khan.
“Carl looks in good shape. You can see he’s ready for the fight – he’s focussed. Carl is probably already two points down before the first bell goes so he has to get ahead early in the fight.”
Froch is aware of the difficulties of fighting away from home, he has not fought in the UK since out-pointing Andre Dirrell on the Super Six’s opening night back in October 2009, this was followed by a loss to Mikkel Kessler in Denmark, a win over Arthur Abraham in Finland and a decision over Glen Johnson in the USA.
However, you could argue that Ward is the one who is coming out of his comfort zone; the Californian has fought in his home state throughout the tournament despite the organisers initially stating that everyone would face an away trip. Things have certainly fallen kindly for Andre during the Super Six yet Ward told Sky Sport’s Ed Robinson that ‘Son Of God’ will be handed his first ‘0’ on the night.
“I will not sit down, I will not be denied, I won’t fold – I will look for a way to win and adapt as the fight evolves,” insisted Froch. “I will make adjustments. [Trainer] Robert [McCracken] has got such a brilliant mind. That is why the GB lads are doing so well, it is because of Rob’s input and knowledge of the sport.
“There’s no point getting tense and nervous, making a big deal of things, because it has a negative impact, the fight’s happening. I don’t make a deal of it. He looks fired up, I don’t expect nothing less because he’s an elite fighter, a class act, but he’s in the hardest fight of his career against the best super-middleweight on the planet.”
Froch’s run of opposition has been stellar, his granite chin has yet to let him down and the reverse to Kessler prompted him to go away and adapt his style – there has been more boxing from Froch in recent bouts. There is also a sense that ‘The Cobra’ is one of those guys who finds a way to grit out a win no matter what is thrown at him, his close but fair loss to Kessler saw him almost turn things around a number of times only to be denied by Kessler’s better boxing brain and equally solid chin.
David Haye believes in Froch, the two travelled together as amateurs and ‘The Hayemaker’ thinks that Carl’s unorthodox style will rattle Ward. “Carl gets his confidence from beating world class opposition,” said Haye during Sky’s pre-fight segment.
“I’ve never known someone have such a tough schedule. There’s nothing Carl can say to have an effect on Andre but once that first bell goes Carl’s speed and strange punching angles will shake Ward up.”
Whether Haye is correct or not, the fight cannot fail to be intriguing as the two men are accomplished boxers at the top of their game. All we have to do is sit back, watch it unfold and pray that the result is clear and leaves no room for cries of ‘robbery’ or yet another week of controversy.
Sky begin their coverage from 12am on Saturday on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.
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