Boxing: Froch lurks in shadows
Unsung champion is happy to mix it with amateurs and show them the ropes
Carl Froch is some distance from your archetypal pug. Tall, ruggedly handsome and articulate, he is university educated with a sports science degree from Loughborough. An astute, clinical fighter who can box and bang; which is why he is such a good role model for Britain's elite amateur boxing squad, with whom he has been preparing at their impressively refurbished English Institute of Sport HQ in Sheffield for his next Super Six engagement with Mikkel Kessler in Herning, Denmark, on Saturday.
Nottingham's WBC super- middleweight champion has been a regular visitor to Sheffield since his trainer, Rob McCracken, took over as the GB performance director and head coach. Last week he was working with McCracken and sparring with some of the squad – something that would have given the Blazers apoplexy in the days, not so long ago, when amateurs weren't even allowed in the same room as pros, let alone the same ring. Froch says: "It's been a natural progression for me to come here because of Rob's new job, and everyone seems happy about it as it helps me and I hope it helps the boys. The facilities are fantastic and there are some good young boxers I can spar with. They are a proper sound bunch of lads, eager to get to the Olympics and looking to me as a world champion to inspire them."
Froch has empathy with the youngsters as he did not turn pro until eight years ago after an outstanding amateur career. "I think having a long amateur pedigree [he boxed more than 40 times for England and won a world bronze medal] taught me how to handle the roller-coaster of emotions boxing brings. It builds your character. You become accustomed to what a ruthless world it is out there."
At 32, he is still understated and relatively unsung despite being unbeaten over 26 fights with a 76 per cent KO record. He is hailed as a hero in his home town but the US promoter Lou di Bella famously asked last year: "Who the froch is Froch?" He quickly found out as Froch sensationally crushed his man Jermaine Taylor to retain his title.
Now, after defeating the unbeaten American Andre Dirrell on a split decision in US TV network Showtime's Super Six round-robin series – designed to unite the WBC and WBA titles – he faces Denmark's former WBA champion Kessler, last seen here giving Joe Calzaghe a taxing scrap. Froch was due to leave today but will now have to go later this week – by ferry and road – because of the volcanic ash problem.
Froch has never been short of self-confidence. "I think Kessler is made for me. He's like an eastern European, in and out in straight lines. But he's a big, strong operator with bags of experience who's lost only twice in 44 fights. For me to say I'm going to knock him out would make me sound a little bit arrogant and cocksure. So yes, I'm going to knock him out!"
If anything gets up Froch's nose more than an opponent's punches, it is that yet again he is being shunned by the major British TV networks – this fight will be shown only on the little-known subscription channel Primetime. "I am the fighter of the year and I was involved in the best fight of the year for two years running. It's strange I'm not on mainstream TV because I'm a proper world champion. Maybe it's because I'm not with a cash-rich promoter."
Froch says he will carry on boxing as long as the desire and the will to win are there. "I'm 32, and a very fresh 32. But when you get up at half past six, you're tired, it's raining and the girlfriend is lying there in a warm bed and you're thinking 'I've got to get my tracksuit on and run', you've got to do it. When you stop doing that and you don't want to come in and train and spar, then that's when you quit."
Froch v Kessler is on Primetime (Sky channel 480 and Virgin On Demand). Sky customers call 0871 200 4444 or go to www.primetimelive.co.uk
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