This is Froch’s opportunity to finally soar
The city of Nottingham, England, has always loved an underdog with the will and gall to poke a thumb in the eye of tradition and institution. Just ask Robin Hood.
Carl Froch is no outlaw, but the super middleweight titleholder is something of an outsider, having spent his career looking in at the chosen few for whom the fight game brings fame and fortune, without ever managing to join the top table himself.
Showtime’s Super Six Boxing Classic, which starts on Saturday with Froch (25-0, 20 knockouts) in action against Andre Dirrell (18-0, 13 KOs) and Arthur Abraham taking on Jermain Taylor, could be the catalyst for the granite-chinned 32-year-old’s popularity to finally soar.
Yet just at the time when Froch figured to be accepted as the standard-bearer for a British boxing scene that pines for Joe Calzaghe and laments Ricky Hatton’s demise, his bid for recognition faces challenges every bit as tough as those offered by five other elite 168-pounders.
Froch is a folk hero in Nottingham, a bustling commercial city two hours north of London, where he will fight Dirrell at the 7,000-capacity Trent FM Arena. But unlike Hatton and Calzaghe, or even heavyweight contender David Haye, he won’t stop traffic in any other part of the country, and his lack of mass appeal rankles with him.
He feels slighted that his dramatic final round stoppage of Taylor in Mashantucket, Conn., in April, has afforded him only a very limited celebrity status, and a perception of Froch as arrogant and opinionated prevails.
“To become the best is just the start of the journey,” said Froch. “It's taken me six years to get here and I want to become a legend, create my legacy and earn some proper money as well. There is nobody as hungry as me in this tournament.
“It's taken me a long time with a lot of disappointments along the way to reach this point in my career and I have earned it, every step. I was not fortunate to get plucked from nowhere to compete in this. I fought my way into this show against the odds and I'm here on merit.”
Froch never pulls his punches, literally or verbally, and not everyone likes it. Public criticism of David Beckham, made a few years back when the England soccer star was still in his pomp rather than sunning himself in California, was never going to endear him to the masses.
And while he is talented and exciting and highly competent, it is only in the last year that he has beaten anyone of note – firstly undefeated Jean Pascal and then Taylor.
Promoter Mick Hennessy has tried to set up big fights, yet an all-British clash with Calzaghe never got off the ground and a proposed bout with Bernard Hopkins also floundered in the initial stages of discussion.
“You have to give him some credit for trying to fight the big guys,” said retired British middleweight Gary Lockett, who challenged for Kelly Pavlik’s WBC and WBO belts last year.
“He hasn’t managed to get those fights and hasn’t had close to the attention of the big boys.
Showtime’s tournament could be a big step for him, but it’s a very tough field. He will be in some exciting fights though, that is always the way with him, and he has some chance.”
Froch has never had a huge payday and is believed to be guaranteed around $1.6 million for his three round-robin fights in the Super Six. For him, the money is a barometer of respect more than a necessity, as he has attained financial security through a series of shrewd property investments.
“It is a bit frustrating that people still don’t realize how much class and entertainment I bring,” said Froch. “All I can do is do my work like a world champion, win like a world champion and make people take notice.”
Television rights can boost Froch’s earnings throughout the tournament, yet there lies a problem. The collapse of the Setanta broadcasting platform means there is less money to go around for British boxing these days, and only a tiny fraction of the UK public will see the Dirrell fight.
For many, the contest will pass by largely unnoticed. As a wan to Showtime, it is to be held at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning in England. In Britain it will be shown on Primetime, a pay-per-view network for which this fight is its first, and maybe only, broadcast.
Deadline restrictions mean the socially influential British newspapers won’t get a crack at the story until Monday morning, when they will have a full weekend’s worth of Premier League soccer to fill their pages.
“It doesn’t matter what Froch does,” said Steve Lillis, boxing correspondent for the News of the World. “He just can’t get the public behind him. Look at how thrilling that Taylor fight was, but by the following day everyone was already looking ahead to Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao.
“Sometimes the timing has been against him, sometimes he hasn’t helped himself with what he has said. Either way, he needs to do something in this tournament.”
The Super Six is undoubtedly Froch’s big chance, perhaps his only one. Victory over a field including Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward, Abraham, Taylor and Dirrell would bring automatic and international respect.
Yet even in the best case scenario that prize is five fights and around 16 months away. For now Froch must remain waiting in the wings, as the most dangerous opponents of his career line up for the chance to shatter his dream of that glittering future.