The Pugilist

Fantastic Mr Froch disproves his doubters

The Pugilist

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Well, the attempt at providing live fight-chat coverage of the latest big boxing card on location, as opposed to being sat comfortably in front of a television screen, came with plenty of headaches. Once again, sorry to those who tuned in hoping for the usual level of detail and irreverent natter.

On the plus side, coverage could have ended up a lot worse. In the end, things went well enough on a basic level. Plus, of course, I was able to witness another strong contender for fight of 2013.

Those of you who also had to contend with the terrible public transport plan following ‘Warrior’s Call’ at the O2 Arena on Saturday night will also nonetheless agree that it was well worth the chaos. The entrances were worth the trip alone.

But Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler not only matched their hard-hitting war from 2010 in Denmark, they exceeded both that and any and all expectations.

And how often do sequels in any genre end up better than the original?

There were a lot of comments disagreeing with the main point made in my pre-fight preview blog, that Carl Froch is Britain’s ‘Floyd Mayweather’ when it comes to drawing at the box office.

That was the only department in which I would say the two have something in common, and of course on a global scale ‘The Cobra’ can not touch ‘Money’ - nor can anyone else, really.

Saturday night, however, saw Froch silence a lot of critics in a number of ways.


After losing a few backers in the prediction stakes with his awkward and ill-advised attempts to psyche out ‘The Viking Warrior’ in the build-up to the return bout, it was a more reserved and focused Froch who strode onto the O2’s entrance elevator to the rip-roaring chords of Welcome To The Jungle, accompanied by a pyrotechnics display and a vociferously partisan crowd.

His threat to ‘kill’ Kessler at the final press conference went down like a lead balloon, and his barrage of words into the Dane’s ear during the weigh-in were only met by laughter, with the Englishman then flinching first from the eye-to-eye.

Rather than the pre-contest faux pas hurting Froch’s chances, however, the Nottingham fighter learned from his mistakes and from that spellbinding entrance to the post-bout interviews, carried himself in a refreshingly-respectful way, as those who have endured his cocky words over the last few months will appreciate.

Indeed, during the referee’s final instructions, Froch remained silent. Whenever Kessler connected with a strong shot to Froch’s granite-like cranium, the defending IBF champion not only failed to flinch, but resisted the temptation to taunt his adversary for not doing more damage.

After an eternity alienating some of his own domestic fans by trying to ‘be a boxing showman’, talk himself up and act generally unsavoury, Froch regained the edge of the fight by doing the exact opposite and reminding us all that he can indeed be a gentleman as well as a warrior.

Granted, 118-110 was a ridiculous scorecard, but the other two were hard to argue. I personally had Froch for six rounds, Kessler in four, and two down as even 10-10s - giving Carl a two-round win.

Kessler, to his credit, not only carried himself with class in defeat but proved his pre-fight words held water: he said he would not lose his record of never being stopped in battle, and he went all 12.

He also said he had a game plan, and had Froch not been so tough, so determined, it may have paid off.

The 2012 wins over Lucian Bute and Yusaf Mack left me adamant that Froch would again try to heap the pressure on from the get-go. He did just that, but I was not the only person at the O2 suspecting Kessler’s big plan to be to soak up the abuse and launch his own initiative in rounds four and five.

Froch not only weathered this plan, but worked the jab more than he has in years, giving him the edge in the remainder of the battle – especially those amazing rounds in the fifth and eighth. To put the cherry on top, he saved the best for the last and had Kessler in serious trouble in round 12.

The tactical aspect to this physical spectacle is what puts it miles above the undoubtedbly-exciting but one-dimensional Rocky Balboa-esque slugfests you see from time to time.

But not only does this mean the fight is my current front-runner for the annual year-end awards, it makes me second-guess my assertion that a second Froch quest for redemption – against Andre Ward – perhaps would not be so pointless.

Froch’s throwback-esque pride in being an in-your-face, no-frills fighter met its kryptonite in the Super Six finales against Ward - there to provide commentary for Stateside broadcasts - in 2011.

The American is second only to Mayweather in fighting on the back foot and found it remarkably easy to pick the 35-year-old off and take his WBC crown.

Against Kessler, however, Froch found the right blend of tactics and physicality, and it’s easy to see why its success fills him with belief that he can avenge that other defeat, too.

Ward has no reason to fly over to Blighty to take on a man he has already conquered – outside of perhaps the allure of unifying the division – but if he does and continues to be blighted by injuries in the meantime, the combination of Froch’s genesis, the partisan crowd and Ward’s inactivity could spell trouble for ‘The Son of God’.

Of course, Ward would remain the favourite. And rightly so. But Froch’s entertaining and fearless endeavours over the years, culminating in this killer run of form over the last 12 months, for me means he at the very least deserves that second crack at Ward whilst perhaps also finally realising that dream of selling out his beloved Nottingham Forest’s City Ground stadium.

If Ward is not available for 2014’s ‘Veinticinco de Mayo’ – Froch’s own big-fight weekend after the Bute and Kessler triumphs in two consecutive late Mays – maybe it will instead be the time to pull the trigger on Froch v Groves.

As mentioned last-week, the British superfight is already hyping itself. And though Groves’ impressive win in chief support at the O2 was over another unimpressive opponent, one challenging opponent at the end of this year should be enough to move him on to a challenge of Froch.

The loser of Sakio Bika v Marco Antonio Periban, to be held underneath Adrien Broner v Paulie Malignaggi next month in Brooklyn for Ward’s vacated WBC championship, could be a good place to start looking.

Until then, we should all be proud of double-world champ Froch and Groves for giving us a British boxing future to sink our teeth into at a mainstream and lucrative level. Long may it continue.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter

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