When the idea of a super middleweight round robin tournament came to fruition back in 2009, the thought of Carl Froch winning the “Super Six” was an afterthought.
Though the Nottingham, U.K. native was considered a good fighter and had made his U.S. television debut a few months prior with a come-from-behind 12th round knockout of Jermain Taylor, most pundits selected Froch – along with the aforementioned Taylor – as the decided underdogs.
Now, Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) is on the cusp of superstardom, a win away from staking his claim to ‘world’s best 168-pounder’ and capturing the vacant RING super middleweight championship. On Saturday (9 p.m. E.T., Showtime), the only thing standing between him and the Super Six championship cup is Andre Ward.
“I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed with what you see on Saturday night,” said Froch, 34. “I am in the best shape of my life. It’s as simple as that. I’ve been on the weight now for a couple of weeks. I feel sharp, strong, confident. Physically and mentally, I could not be in better shape. I know I’m ready and I know that Saturday night is going to be my night.”
Prior to the inaugural matches of the Super Six, Froch had a lower profile in the boxing world. The round robin tourney greatly increased his standing not only stateside, but in his native England.
“I’m getting viewed on TV by many fight fans now which is great,” said Froch. “I’ve actually become more popular in American than before in England, which is great. I’ve really gotten some great matchups since the tournament started. (Andre) Dirrell, (Mikkel) Kessler, (Arthur) Abraham, (Glen) Johnson and now Ward. I don’t think those fights would have happened if it wasn’t for the tournament. It’s been great for Andre and it’s been great for myself.”
Froch was originally slated to face Ward at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. on Oct. 29. But the fight was postponed after Ward suffered a nasty cut in sparring. Froch isn’t worried about the delay – in fact, he feels the extra training time has benefited him.
“It actually worked in my favor,” said Froch. “My trainer Rob McCracken is the head coach for the Great Britain Olympic boxing team and they actually had an Olympic qualifying tournament two weeks before my departure for New York for the previous date. It was going to work into my rest week and we were going to be OK with it. So essentially I had a two-week break when I heard about Ward’s injury. So I had a week with my family and then another week when I started to crank it up a bit.
“It was a little disappointing for me but the main problem it caused was having to get new flights and cheaper flights for my fans. But the response has been great since and each day I’m getting more and more people who are excited about coming over for the fight. It’s going to work out perfect.”
The Oakland, Calif.-based Ward is undefeated and a big favorite heading into the matchup, as much as 3-1 in some sports books. Froch expects to make it a war, using his granite chin and underrated boxing ability to upset THE RING’s No. 1 super middleweight.
“Styles make fights, it’s an old clich├®,” remarked Froch. “It’s hard to look at past fights of fighters and then try and draw a conclusion on how a fight is going to go. I expect for him to come to box and to use his jab and his boxing skills. But he may try and close the gap and get into my chest and get rough in there. It’s hard to tell what to expect. It’s going to be a fantastic fight between two high level fighters. It’s going to be a war. There is a plan A and a plan B and maybe even a plan C.
“I’ll be trying to hit Andre Ward in the face – very hard and very often. Will I be targeting the right eye or left eye or wherever his cut was? To be totally honest, no. It’s too difficult to target a square inch on somebody’s cranium.”
Should Froch win, he knows the next big fight is with a boxer who was surprisingly left out of the tournament field – undefeated fighter Lucian Bute. No matter who wins on Saturday, there will be doubt to who is the best super middleweight until they meet the Montreal-based fighter, even if Froch dismisses him.
“Lucian Bute isn’t even in the discussion,” said Froch. “I know he’s the IBF champion but the two names on his record are Brian Magee and Glen Johnson, that’s it. He lost to a guy named Librado Andrade. He actually got KO’d. The referee picked him up off the floor, washed his windshield 40 seconds later and the bell was rung and he won on points. But in my opinion, he was knocked out. Lucian Bute needs to fight some of the top level people before he can call himself the best or in the top three in the world.”
Froch is ready for the defining moment of his career, the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. He’s confident that come Saturday, there will be a new pound-for-pound entrant and super middleweight king.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and my style. I’m in a happy place right now,” said Froch. “I know exactly what I need to do to win this fight. I’m confident and I’m looking forward to doing my business on the 17th.”
Photos: Tom Casino, Showtime (1) Fightwireimages.com (2)
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger