Carl Froch exclusive: Chavez is out, so what’s next?
It was all going perfectly to plan for U.K. warrior hero Carl Froch. Coming off the most celebrated victory of his career, a shuddering eighth-round knockout of bitter rival George Groves last May, THE RING No. 1 super middleweight targeted a Las Vegas swansong against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“The Son of Legend” brought a great name, excitement, drawing power – and the “Sin City” backdrop was high on the Froch wish list. Enter Andrzej Fonfara, a tough and respected light heavyweight, who was looking to regain career momentum following a competitive decision loss to Adonis Stevenson.
Chavez, who agreed to the Fonfara bout at a catch weight of 172 pounds, was beaten decisively and dropped for the first time in his career. The stricken 29-year-old retired after nine one-sided and painful sessions.
“I didn’t see the fight but I saw the left-hook knockdown,” said Froch when speaking to RingTV.com. “This is what happens when you step out of your weight division and I’m not surprised that Chavez was overpowered. You can just tell by his frame that he’s not a light heavyweight.
“Chavez’s style is to come forward, throw hooks to body and head, which was effective at 160 pounds. Can he make that work at super middle in the future? It remains to be seen but the odds don’t look good because he doesn’t live clean and inactivity is another serious issue.”
Froch continued, “He could beat some of the weaker super middleweights out there but world class looks beyond him now. I would prove nothing by beating him so a fight with me is unrealistic. Chavez is a young man and only he can put it right, but this kid needs renewed commitment and focus.”
The Chavez capitulation leaves the 37-year-old Froch with the prospect of finding a suitable replacement and that is proving troublesome. Inactive for 11 months, and on the back of a glorious career, he seems caught between contentment and rolling the dice in another big battle.
Froch said, “I’ve been out of action for a long time, probably too long if I’m being honest. I live clean and control my weight, but I won’t know what I have left until I start training properly. I wake up every day thinking I’ve still got it, but I’ll be a fighter until the day I die and I love a good tear up.
“Sometimes the heart is willing and the body isn’t. I turn 38 years old in July and I’m enjoying family time right now. I’ve got my fiancee, my two beautiful kids, and I have another one on the way. I still love boxing so if I can get the right opponent, and I feel good, then it would be great to fight again.
“With that said, I’m not really missing it and this uncertainty could be a warning sign that my desire is not where it should be.”
During this conversation, an internal battle raged within Froch. The three-time super middleweight titleholder sounded cheerful and upbeat, indeed happier than at any time this reporter has encountered him, but every now and again that fierce competitive nature would come exploding to the surface.
Carl Froch, rated No. 6 pound for pound, spoke exclusively to THE RING about a potential shortlist should he return to the battlefield:
ANDRE WARD, WBA super middleweight titleholder, 27-0 (14 knockouts):
Status: Scheduled to fight Paul Smith – Oakland, California, June 20, 2015
“I got myself excited about fighting Ward again but, dare I say it, he just didn’t fancy it. Ward could have come over to England, made a career-high payday, and backed up his mouth. He said he beat me easily last time, that he only used one hand, and all the rest of it. So why avoid a rematch, if I’m such an easy option? Sure, he’s had a long layoff but how many times has Floyd Mayweather come back after time off and faced the best? Ward is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, who regards himself as a magnificent athlete, so why not do the training, do the sparring, and get yourself ready? I’ve had almost a year out myself and would only be looking to come back against a strong opponent. Ward said he wouldn’t fight in Nottingham City Ground and that’s a venue which holds 35,000 fans. The problem is he’s not big enough to fill Wembley Stadium and the biggest broadcasting networks aren’t interested in showing his fights. He’s got Paul Smith next, who is coming off two great fights with Arthur Abraham, so hopefully Paul can give him something to think about. All I’m saying is, he could have been in against me and had the opportunity to regain the top spot.”
JAMES DEGALE, IBF super middleweight mandatory challenger, 20-1 (14 KOs):
Status: Scheduled to fight Andre Dirrell – May 23, Boston, Massachusetts
“DeGale is a great little fighter who won Olympic gold, but he hasn’t been tested as a professional. He lost to George Groves (May 2011), who I obliterated, and that was a barometer of James’ ability at that particular time. The fight he has coming up with Dirrell is, without doubt, his stiffest test to date and it’s away from home, which makes it tougher. Dirrell is a fast, skillful, tactical and naturally athletic opponent but he doesn’t have a fighter’s mentality. At world level you need to be tenacious and hard and I’m not sure Dirrell has that in his locker. When I fought him he ran, held 10 times a round, and boxed off the back foot. In one of the later rounds he stood in front of me and gave it a go but, overall, I don’t think he’s got the bottle. You need desire and heart when you’re fighting for a world championship and it remains to be seen if he has that. If James can win, which I think he can, against a good version of Dirrell, then he has a bright future ahead of him. I said before, James hadn’t earned his stripes but the winner of this one is potentially a big fight for me. Time is running out though.”
GENNADY GOLOVKIN, WBA middleweight titleholder, 32-0 (29 KOs)
Status: Scheduled to fight Willie Monroe Jr. – May 16, Inglewood, California
“Golovkin is a middleweight and lately he’s shown no intentions of stepping up to 168 pounds. If I was going to fight him then I would have to be at my best because, let’s face it, he’s a very classy opponent and a great fighter. The one thing I will say is, even though he’s done everything asked of him, he hasn’t had a true test at middleweight. Martin Murray took him 11 rounds and, for me, that’s a three- or four-round job. Murray isn’t happy that I’ve said that and started talking rubbish on Twitter but he needs to look at my resume. I’ll fight everybody and anybody you have out there. I’ve been in with Ward, Kessler twice, Bute, Abraham, Dirrell, Taylor. I’ll fight anyone and that includes Golovkin, providing I’m at my best.”
BERNARD HOPKINS, former two-weight world champion, 55-7-2 (32 KOs)
Status: No fight scheduled
“I have so much respect for Hopkins and that fight could potentially fill Nottingham City Ground, and it definitely fills a 20,000-seat arena. He’s an old man but people think I’m at the end of my own career, so that might make it interesting. I know that Hopkins would come to England, he made that quite clear, but it’s a hard decision for me to make. I said in the past that I didn’t want the fight out of respect and although he tried to goad me, I haven’t got a bad thing to say about Hopkins. He’s a gentleman who has done so much for the sport. My best friend met him in Philadelphia and they did a little mini video together in a local cafe. I just love the guy so much and, although he’s past his best, at his peak Hopkins was unbelievable. He’d go in there with anybody and it could be a sort of “Legends” fight I guess. I would need a lump hammer to get him out of there, he’s a tough old man, but I would stay on him, work, and then work again. I could maybe force the referee to intervene but I don’t think I could get a clean knockout. I must stress, I’m not calling Hopkins out because I have too much respect for him to do that. At the time the fight was available, Chavez Jr. was more attractive and commercially it made more sense to go down that route. Hopkins has the legendary status, which he’s earned, but there’s something about it that doesn’t excite me right now.”
MIKKEL KESSLER, four-time super middleweight titleholder, 46-3 (35 KOs):
“We’re one and one but I beat him fair and square in the rematch and it was quite convincing. With that said, I could give him a call tonight and we would thrash out a deal in less than 24 hours. Mikkel said he would come back for me or (Andre) Ward but this is a guy I’ve shared the ring with for over an hour, bashing each other in the face. Do I really want to fight him again? The answer is no. Would I get up for fighting him again? The answer is yes. A third fight is always there and the fans would come out in force for it. Kessler is always going to be a tough night’s work for anyone.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing