Carl Froch was too slow, too predictable and watching him go through the motions against Andre Ward on Saturday night in the final of the Super Six tournament in Atlantic City was at times painful to witness.
Ward produced a masterclass in defensive artistry throughout the 12 rounds but it was, perhaps, his willingness to fight at close range with tempting short hooks and the ease with which he showed Froch his power that proved most distressing.
"It was a bad night," admitted Froch. "He was slick and hard to hit. He is slippery and tricky in close and that is not my game. He smothered my work, he slips and slides." Froch was a fighter still searching for answers, a way to beat or even understand what had just happened long after the final bell; the reality is that he had no answers and that left him looking like a broken man at the end.
The decision was unanimous in Ward's favour but for some crazy reason two of the three judges at ringside delivered close and identical scores of 115-113, which is a disgraceful distortion of Ward's domination. Thankfully the British judge, John Keane, produced the correct card with a 118-110 score. It is even more alarming that John Stewart, the American judge, had the fight even 95-95 after 10 rounds; the scoring in this fight is far more disturbing than the scores from last Saturday's fight involving Amir Khan.
The pattern was set early and continued without more than one or two temporary detours until the end of the fight; Ward threw a fast jab, most often as a counter, and Froch was left trying to solve the speed with either lunges or an attempt at countering of his own. Froch, it has to be said, tried everything possible and certainly left the ring with his head held high having bravely charged forward during the last two rounds. "I was surprised at just how slow Froch was," admitted Ward, who retained his WBA belt, added Froch's WBC version and also left with the bogus Ring magazine belt and the silver cup from the Super Six.
Ward just seemed to have all the moves to negate Froch's rare curling uppercuts, jabs and attempts to unsettle him. Froch did seem at times bewildered by Ward's ability to block punches but he seemed most shocked by the American's ease at handling him; Ward was the stronger fighter and that is something that Froch never expected and possibly overlooked in the months of preparation. It should be remembered that in 2004 Ward won Olympic gold at light-heavyweight, which is seven pounds heavier.
There were some odd moments in Froch's corner between rounds and as early as rounds five and six it seemed that Robert McCracken, who has trained Froch for all of his 29 previous fights, was having to really work hard to make Froch focus: "Are you listening?" McCracken kept asking.
There is the possibility that Froch's extreme schedule has taken a far more debilitating toll on the boxer than anybody imagined. Froch has been in consecutive 12-round fights on six occasions in the past 36 months since first winning a version of the world title; he has not had the luxury of easy fights, the traditional way that boxers allow their bodies to recover. The Super Six has left a trail of broken fighters since it started in October 2009 and is unlikely to be repeated in its present format.
The Super Six has been particularly hard with the addition of having four of his five fights in the tournament on the road, which is a bizarre situation that has never really been fully explained. Ward, who lives in California, has had one fewer fight in the Super Six, two in his hometown, another in his home state and Saturday's job was his first on the road.
Hopefully, Froch will now fight in his beloved Nottingham in April or May and will probably get another world-title fight before the end of next summer.
"I still think that I can beat Ward on a good night," said Froch. "I will go away, be with my family and talk to Rob about the options. There are a lot of other fighters out there."
Sadly, Froch added his name to an illustrious list of British fighters who have either lost world titles or lost in world-title fights overseas in 2011 joining David Haye, Khan, Matt Macklin, Darren Barker, John Murray, Ryan Rhodes and Matthew Hatton.
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