Boxing: Froch crashes into the big time

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The Independent Online

Every few years a fight lands in a British ring with the potency, intensity and raw drama to leave behind a set of memories that nobody on their sofas, in the pubs or in the crowd will ever forget and that is what happened on Saturday night in Nottingham.

Carl Froch's patient wait for respect arrived at the end of 12 sensational rounds of world championship boxing when his hand was raised high above the dejected face of Canada's Jean Pascal and the World Boxing Council's super-middleweight belt was strapped round his sore body. This was not the reward of a cheap bauble to the best available fighter, which has so often corrupted the sport.

In the modern and lucrative world of championship boxing there are more lost fights than classics, but in front of a truly inspired crowd of nearly 10,000, Froch and Pascal turned back the clock of caution and big business. The pair entered the ring unbeaten and fought like two relentless men in desperation to keep their records secure.

Froch wasted about three seconds of the opening round before letting the first of a hundred vicious combinations go in Pascal's direction. Pascal took the shots, moved his body and countered cleanly and that was the pattern for the next 35 minutes and 50 seconds of pure boxing joy.

There were moments when both had been caught and stunned or caught and rocked when they seemed to look at each other in awe with wonder on their faces. A purist might find fault with their defensive mistakes but at this level, one that we so seldom witness, it is about heart and desire and when two unbeaten punchers meet it is too much to expect defensive wizardry.

Pascal's face was starting to blur with the blood and swelling as the rounds took their toll but he looked capable of a one-punch finish at any time. In not one round did Pascal fail to nail Froch cleanly and force the crowd to their feet in the type of collective drive that I have not seen since Nigel Benn walked away.

However, it was Froch's demonic belief and drive that won the hearts of the millions watching and will leave every single witness a convert to the Johnny Cash-loving gentleman from Nottingham. It was an old-fashioned fight for an old-fashioned fighter who is now poised at the relatively late age of 31 for a couple of years of glory. There is bold talk of a fight with Joe Calzaghe, the previous owner of the WBC belt, but the politics between the talk and the reality are vast.

At the ExCel in London the Olympic idols Amir Khan and Audley Harrison continued their careers with both entering the ring to an uncertain future. In September Khan lost for the first time in 19 fights when he was knocked out in 54 seconds. On Saturday he stopped Dublin's usually durable Oisin Fagan in round two after three impressive knockdowns, and it has to be said that Khan looked composed.

Sadly, it now looks grim for Sydney gold medal-winner Harrison who lost a wafer-thin 10-round decision to a part-time taxi driver and full-time hardman called "Big" Marty Rogan, from Belfast. It was a great fight for fans and for Rogan, who won for the 11th time, but for Harrison it leaves a chasm between his form and his dreams.

Froch was the boss in British rings but in Las Vegas Manny Pacquiao sent Oscar de la Hoya into retirement with a one-sided, brutal and totally unexpected destruction which thankfully De la Hoya ended after eight rounds when he pulled out. Pacquiao was shorter and lighter but his speed left De la Hoya a swollen and blundering wreck long before the overdue end.

There was a chance that Ricky Hatton would fight the winner but Pacquiao is now likely to become the single obsession of Floyd Mayweather Jr, who has not fought since beating Hatton last December. Pacquiao ruined De la Hoya, who Mayweather controversially outpointed last May, and took firm control of the mythical but increasingly important pound-for-pound title. Mayweather held the title for years before walking away and it will inevitably lead to him walking back.