By Lyle Fitzsimmons
We can all agree on one thing these days. It’s pretty damned good to be Carl Froch.
Not only is the 35-year-old Englishman in the prime of his athletic career at a shredded 168 pounds, but he’s undeniably one of the best in the world at his chosen profession.
And lest we forget, he’s a father who goes home each night to both a new baby daughter and one of the world’s most intoxicatingly beautiful mothers, magazine cover girl Rachael Cordingley.
If you’re one of the three males who haven’t done it already, do yourself a favor and Google her.
You’ll thank me – and envy him – at the same time.
But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just concentrate on items one and two.
As Froch proved again simply by showing up Saturday in London, he continues to defy all norms in terms of conditioning – shedding a T-shirt to reveal a ripped and ready physique prior to his 33rd pro fight.
While others his age battle discipline and soar through weight classes, Froch has been within 4¼ pounds of the super middle limit for every single one of his pro outings – and hasn’t weighed in north of the 168-pound threshold at all since toppling Belarusian Dmitry Adamovich in two rounds nine years ago.
The payoff for restraint at the training table is opportunity at the negotiating table.
With yet another pursuit and capture of yet another high-end super middle title-holder – this time good pal Mikkel Kessler and his cheesy WBA belt – Froch supplemented the best May-to-May stretch of any top-shelf commodity and opened a series of lucrative doors for the next 12 months, too.
Just a day shy of a year since demolishing previously unbeaten IBF claimant Lucian Bute in Nottingham, Froch avenged one of two career losses with a brutal and decisive 36 minutes against a game but outgunned Kessler, who’d edged him in Denmark back in 2010.
The 10, eight and seven rounds he won on the cards this time were right on the money – my 116-112 view matched Venezuelan judge Carlos Sucre – and did nothing to blunt momentum Froch generated with the beating of Bute last May 26 and a subsequent third-round KO of Yusaf Mack in November.
Whether you consider him a world champion or simply a belted pretender to the division’s legit throne-sitter, Froch is definitely a road through which the best fights at 168 must travel going forward.
And his zealous following – HBO’s Jim Lampley claimed the 19,000 fans in London were louder than 55,000 who turned out in Argentina for Sergio Martinez a month ago – gives him a leg up on determining the precise real estate for those fights as well.
The rematch win over Kessler ensures any plans for a rubber match in that series would have a UK bent to them, and AARP middleweight-turned-light heavy Bernard Hopkins has already gone public saying he’d take a flight across the Atlantic to play visiting villain to Froch’s hometown hero.
Not surprisingly, though, the match most want made coming out of the weekend involves another.
In this case, it’s the only other fighter to beat Froch: consensus champ Andre Ward.
In most circumstances, a fighter with both an unblemished record and a clear win over his assumed No. 1 suitor would hold all the cards when it came to dictating any second go-round.
He could choose the site. He could engineer the purse split.
Heck, he could even decide what hair gel Michael Buffer would dollop before doing the intros.
This, however, is certainly not such a normal circumstance.
While he was sublimely dominant upon meeting Froch two Decembers ago in New Jersey, Ward’s box-office street cred is nowhere near proportional to his in-ring acumen – meaning no one of sound mind is liable to pony up the cash needed to stage a second bout in a United States zip code.
In other words, in spite of the 2011 result, Ward needs Froch more than Froch needs Ward.
And, short of a domestic version of Vladimir Hryunov arriving with a last-minute vault full of hundreds, that reality leaves him with a pair of contrasting promotional options.
He can stand his kingpin ground, salve his bruised ego and steadfastly refuse to travel 5,000 miles to face a guy he’s already beaten – thereby leaving himself completely available to face the Stanyslav Kashtanovs, George Groveses and Edwin Rodriguezes of the WBA’s most recent top 10.
Or, he can wise up… and man up at the same time.
Instead of hiding behind a phantom fan base and claiming Froch’s Matchroom team must strive to make things make fiscal sense, Ward has the choice of rediscovering his Olympic pedigree and voyaging to any site necessary to defeat all world comers – with the literal added payoff of a career-best paycheck.
Lest we forget, Froch has fought outside his home country six times – including trips to face Ward, Kessler, Glen Johnson, Jermain Taylor and Arthur Abraham in title bouts – within the last four years.
Meanwhile, Ward has left U.S. airspace just twice, and only to fill the resume with pre-championship fodder like Roger Cantrell in his 14th fight in 2007 and Jerson Ravelo in his 16th seven months later.
While an overseas adventure would admittedly put him within range of an iffy hometown decision, the upside to handling Froch on his own turf would come in the form of an elevated pound-for-pound ladder rung and presumably more backside bargaining power with the premium cable machinery.
Perhaps it’s not fair. And maybe he shouldn’t have to.
But the fact remains that while Ward has the skills to be a headliner, he remains better off sharing the bill with a less-talented but more popular artist – at least until his own stage presence inspires a similar level of frenzied rock-star devotion. Which at the moment, it undeniably does not.
Make no mistake, he’s already bad. But he sure ain’t nationwide.
And without dropping his me-first act to pursue a decisive win outside the stateside comfort zone, chances are pretty strong he never will be.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week’s picks: 2-0
2013 picks record: 30-19 (61.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 493-171 (74.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.