By Terence Dooley
Nottingham’s Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs) retired from boxing in 2014 after deciding that the grind of training was too much, especially as he had started to struggle when making the 168lb limit in his last few bouts. Now a pundit for Sky Sports, “The Cobra” can reflect back on a career that will lead to the HoF and lasting recognition. During a recent conversation with BoxingScene, the 40-year-old recalled some of the key moments and battles he had prior to, during and after the Super Six tournament that spanned a crucial chunk of his in-ring career.
After beating the likes of Alan Page (W KO 7) Charles Adamu (W12) and Damon Hague (W RSF 1) for the English, Commonwealth and British Super-middleweight titles respectively, the Nottingham-based contender met Brian Magee (W KO 11), Tony Dodson (W KO 3) and Robin Reid (W RTD 5) to cement his ranking.
Following a win over late replacement Albert Rybacki (W TKO 4) in May 2008 then-promoter Mick Hennessy secured a home soil showdown against Canada’s undefeated Jean Pascal for the vacant WBC title in December of the same year.
The two men waged a memorable 12-round war yet it was Froch who carried the key rounds to lift the belt. His opponent went on to win the WBC and IBO light-heavyweight titles, which Froch believes reflected well on him and the level he operated at from the get-go at world title level.
“I was fighting at a high-calibre since Pascal for the vacant WBC title that Joe Calzaghe vacated,” he said. “He was young, fit and had an amateur pedigree so it was hard. I never had it anything other than hard in boxing—it was never easy for me and my first defence was Jermain Taylor.
“Pascal was a tough 12 rounds, I had a busted eardrum, a cut eye and got busted up, but this game is hard. From winning that one, I went into Taylor [in May 2009] and it set out what I was about as a fighter. I didn’t duck or swerve anybody—if I had a mandatory I’d take it. I ended up retiring so you got a few people talking about not taking the [James] DeGale mandatory, which was ridiculous as I was talking about retiring before the George Groves rematch. After I beat Groves in the rematch there was nothing left to prove.”
He added: “If you think about Pascal and Taylor then [Andre] Dirrell, [Glen] Johnson, [Mikkel] Kessler and [Andre] Ward, they’d have been PPV on Sky Box Office now, but if I’d have had those fights on PPV who knows what I’d have done after the Ward fight because I’d have been set—maybe I’d have had enough. I’m glad the way it unfolded because, looking back, it made me the man and fighter I am and gave me the legacy I’ve got. Ultimately, I ended up with three big fights on the PPV platform [Kessler II and the brace of fights with George Groves] that meant I did very well out of boxing in the end.”
As soon as he won the belt, the WBC sprang a mandatory on him against former middleweight Champion Taylor, who had moved to 168lbs following back-to-back losses to Kelly Pavlik. A title eliminator win over Jeff Lacy (W12) had brought him into contention for Froch’s belt, and the holder had to travel to Connecticut for his first defence. Frustratingly for Froch, it was not broadcast live here in the U.K. and was shown on delay on ITV4 the next day.
Floored in the third and out-boxed early, the defending titlist was behind on two scorecards going into the final stanza. Taylor, though, had looked a done deal from the tenth onwards and it seemed only a matter of time before he crumbled. With time ticking away, Froch poured everything he had into a final, fight winning assault after flooring the American late in the round.
“I was in the zone, just trying and trying, because one thing I will never do in life is quit. I’ll just keep going until the final bell,” said Froch. “I set about it, looked into his eyes and thought: ‘I’ve got you’. I was knackered myself, barely able to stand up, but landed about 18 punches to force the referee to jump in and defended my WBC title in epic fashion—it is just a shame that hardly anyone saw it.”
Crucially, the win ensured that Froch gained entry into the Super Six tournament. It was a Super-middleweight showcase originally also featuring Ward, Arthur Abraham, Kessler, Dirrell and Taylor. Dirrell lost to Froch by decision on the opening night in October 2009 and had an injury induced layoff after beating Abraham courtesy of an 11th-round disqualification the following year. Taylor suffered a brutal KO defeat against Abraham on the inaugural night, the second time in his career that he had picked up back-to-back defeats.
Froch’s second fight in the tournament was something of a disaster and handed him his first reverse, a decision loss to Kessler in April 2010 after he went against trainer Robert McCracken’s advice for the first and last time.
“Throughout my whole career, I did what Rob told me to do,” he recalled. “The one time I didn’t listen to him was when I flew out to fight Kessler. We had that volcanic ash cloud [from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption], which was just a force majeure and nearly delayed the fight. We flew under the ash in a private jet a few days before the fight and maybe I wasn’t switched on so he told me not to take the fight. I did, and I got beat.”
Froch met Abraham in his next outing, a battle that would decide who stayed in the tournament as they were both coming off a defeat. This time, though, he listened to his body after suffering from a back injury and postponed the contest.
“I only pulled out when I literally couldn’t get out of bed due to a bad back. I’d trained so well after losing to Kessler, was so determined and couldn’t believe my back had gone a week before the fight. I couldn’t risk another loss, two on the spin wasn’t something I couldn’t be doing with, so the fight was postponed and relocated and I did the business.”
A decision win for the vacant WBC belt in November 2011 meant that he was still in the hunt for a fight against Ward, the dark horse going in who had become the standout fighter of the tournament. A victory over Johnson, who had replaced Kessler after the “Viking Warrior” had forced out the tournament due to eye injuries sustained in a Technical Decision defeat to Ward, was the first of back-to-back appearances at New Jersey’s Boardwalk Hall in 2011, and his first with new promoter Eddie Hearn. He took on Ward in the final and lost on points to the man who has succeeded Floyd Mayweather as the sport’s pound-for-pound king.
It led to another crossroads moment. Once again without a title and nursing a loss, Froch took the risk of fighting the undefeated IBF holder Lucian Bute in Nottingham for the short end of the money in the hope of taking another ‘0'—potentially the fifth of his career up to that point—and getting into the mix for a rematch against Kessler. The risk paid off, he dispensed of the French-Canadian in five in May 2012 to put the Ward defeat behind him.
“He was ranked above Ward at the time, so I should have got The Ring belt for that,” argued Froch. “The Bute fight was a big profile fight, I was gearing up towards pay-per-view, Eddie offered me the fight, the money wasn’t great, but I thought I’d get that IBF title and start making some real money in my career.
“I wasn’t thinking about anyone but myself and my career. I had to come back and win a world title, and the biggest fight out there for me was Bute. I got him, brought him to Nottingham and battered him to become a three-time world champion. It was one of the best nights of my life.”
In his next fight, he finally reached the long-coveted PPV status he felt that his battles had deserved in the May 2013 rematch with Kessler, annexing the WBA World belt in the process, before moving on to a fight, and rivalry, that will define him in the eyes of many British fans, a November meeting with the then-undefeated Groves, who got under Froch’s skin and stayed there for a long time.
Howard Foster’s intervention in round nine with Groves under pressure sparked outrage. A return was set, Wembley sold out and the rest is history. Froch secured an eighth-round KO win to underline his dominance over Groves.
“Because it was controversial, it created the rematch. The whole event leading up to that first fight and what happened in it was the perfect fight for the Wembley rematch, you could not have written it better if you sat down with a screenwriter or film producer.
“You would not expect to see a champion at the top of his game who is tough meet a kid who is now tough and good enough to challenge him. They’re having arguments and falling out onscreen. Then they have a fight in which top fighter goes down in round one, climbs off the canvas, gets battered for six rounds then finds a way to win. Then you had the build-up to the rematch and the knockout finish. You’d say that wouldn’t work as a script.”
Froch, though, realised that it was time to call it a day after reaching the pinnacle of his pulling power that night at Wembley. Despite an offer to meet Julio Cesar Chavez at 175lbs, he decided that he would walk away instead of moving up in weight from the poundage that had defined his career yet was becoming increasingly difficult to make.
“I’d always done it  quite easily. I ate what I wanted, was always hydrated, but I really had to be really strict with myself for the last couple and fights and that’s when boxing gets miserable for you, when you are finding it hard to make weight,” he recalled. “That is half the battle. I only felt what most fighters feel in those last few fights.”
Froch is justifiably proud of what he achieved, telling me that he believes he took on all-comes from the Pascal fight onwards with the fight against Yusaf Mack [W KO 3 in November 2012] a well-deserved break from what was a tough run of foes. He can now reflect on his career in its entirety and is happy with what he sees.
He said: “I beat tough people like Page and Ruben Groenewald coming up then met top-level fighters who were mostly in their peak or prime. The only person I didn’t beat was Ward, as I beat Kessler in the rematch, so I don’t need to go on about my legacy—other people do that for me. It was a great run of fighters, I don’t think anyone comes close to matching my boxing CV.
“Obviously, you have Mayweather and guys like that, but you’d be hard-pressed to name anyone in Britain who can match who I fought and defended against. I’ve beaten world champions, former world champions and people who went on to become world champions.”
An in-depth interview with Froch was published in last week's Boxing News magazine. Click here to purchase a copy.
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