Carl Froch has worked for 10 years as a professional boxer to become an overnight sensation and tonight the "sold out" signs will be hanging on the doors at the Nottingham Arena when he fights American Yusaf Mack.
Froch firmly put an end to his neglected, often anonymous and disgracefully overlooked time as a champion and contender when he overwhelmed and viciously beat previously unbeaten Lucian Bute to win the IBF super-middleweight title in May. It was, according to Froch at the time, a "make-or-break fight" and his blunt self-appraisal was correct.
There is a feeling that after such a massive win against Bute, his opponent Mack, who has suffered defeat and stoppage in previous risky fights, has been selected to put on a brave show and lose with some dignity. However, Froch knows Mack's secret history as a gym warrior and he knows that for so long the Philadelphia man has been forced to take fights at the wrong weight and occasionally at short notice.
Froch has been in eight consecutive world-title fights and many were classic brawls that will never be forgotten. He has been up and down in championship contests, faced defeat with just seconds left on the clock, up against great champions in overseas fights, the massive underdog in others, and after each and every encounter he has left the ring with his head held high. It has often seemed that the quality of the fight is as important to Froch as the latest gem-heavy title belt in his possession; being world champion means more than being able to reveal a piece of junk jewellery at the first sign of a flashbulb.
Mack arrived in Nottingham surrounded by two of the American fight game's most seasoned and feared trainers in Percy "Buster" Custis of Shuler's Gym in Philadelphia and Brother Nazim Richardson. Mack, who admittedly does sound like his best days are gone, has been making all the right moves in the fight's slow build. Mack reminded Froch that Joe Calzaghe was the best British super-middleweight of the last few years, which did seem to annoy Froch, and then acknowledged that his status as underdog and fall guy suited him.
"I've never had one single break in this business," insisted Mack. "My luck ain't about to change in Carl's backyard. I'm not stupid, but that makes me dangerous. What have I got to lose?"
Froch, for his part, has been quick to dismiss any notion that he is looking beyond Mack at the improbable but lucrative return with Bute, set for Canada, or a rematch with either Andre Ward or Mikkel Kessler, the two fighters to have beaten him.
"I have trained as hard for this fight as I did for the Bute fight and I know that if I cut corners he will beat me," said Froch, who has found himself at the silly end of some outrageous odds from bookies. "The Bute fight seems to have changed everything. Some of the talk that I have heard is crazy; this is still a world-title fight."
However, I expect to see Froch test Mack early, see just how much losing the 7lb to drop from light-heavyweight has taken a toll. If after a round or two it is clear that Mack, who lost a world-title fight at the higher weight last year, is strong enough to cause a few problems, Froch will box sensibly. He is a natural fighter but he can tame his urges when the win demands a sensible head and that is likely to be the case until Mack starts to feel the pace by about round eight tonight.
Cobra jab: Froch's best wins
Jermain Taylor, 25 Apr 2009
Froch was defending his WBC super-middleweight title for the first time. Taylor was counted out with just 14 seconds left on the clock of a stunning fight.
Arthur Abraham, 27 Nov 2010
Froch put on a flawless display of controlled boxing in Finland to bewilder the brilliant German and betting favourite. He won every round.
Lucian Bute, 26 May 2012
The crowd knew their role on a night when Froch secured his position in British boxing with an old-fashioned breakdown and beating of the favourite and confident IBF champion.