Boxing: Froch's biggest fight is for recognition
He's a household name only in Nottingham but the articulate Cobra finally has big-time exposure
Sunday 30 November 2008
Carl Froch is probably the most celebrated sports personality to come out of Nottingham since Torvill and Dean – although the celebrations have been largely domestic. The British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion admits he is not a household name north or south of the Trent, understated and relatively unsung despite being unbeaten over 23 fights with an 85 per cent KO record and a catchy nom de guerre.
This could be about to change. Next Saturday, after a long and abortive pursuit of Joe Calzaghe, The Cobra strikes out for fame and the Welshman's discarded World Boxing Council title against the also undefeated Canadian Jean Pascal at Nottingham's Trent FM Arena.
Significantly, the wider audience will be on ITV1, which means that Froch finally will have the big-time exposure he has craved. His progression towards world-title contention has been on the less fashionable side of boxing's political divide, leaving him in the rearguard of more illustrious names, notably Calzaghe.
Now his elevation to terrestrial telly – his promoter, Mick Hennessy, having signed a long-term deal with ITV – means the nation can see why he has the makings of a superstar, and he still harbours hopes that if Calzaghe is tempted towards a final reprise, it will be against him, "now I'm on the brink of being a star".
At 30, Froch is some way from your archetypal pug. Tall, ruggedly handsome and articulate, he is university educated, with a sports science degree from Loughborough after studying business and finance at college. He is a good, clinical fighter who can box and bang, but he holds his hands rather low. And his profile, like a few of his fights, has lacked passion.
Which may be why more interest will be generated, though the viewing audience will be smaller, when on British boxing's Super Saturday Sky show Amir Khan's quest for resurrection plus a less auspicious world-title fight, with Enzo Maccarinelli attempt-ing to win back the World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight belt he surrendered to David Haye at London's Excel. The rival Frank Warren promotion is given added piquancy because it precedes the live screening of the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao mega-fight from Las Vegas.
So, not for the first time, Froch fights for recognition. "Who the froch is Froch?" one American promoter famously enquired when the Nottingham fighter was suggested for an appearance in the US. Yet relative obscurity doesn't faze him.
"I know winning the world title on terrestrial television could make me mainstream," he said from his training base in Co Mayo. "I'm a good boxer and I entertain. I don't play safe. I try to decapitate my opponent and the fans love it, so will TV. There's a gap for someone to come along and be a major star. Calzaghe and Ricky Hattonare nearing the end, Haye's not there yet and Amir's shot himself in the foot."
Froch says his inner strength and laid-back temperament "are down to my Eastern European genes". His publican father is Polish, his paternal grandparents having fled the Nazis in the Second World War, when his grandfather fought in the British Army.
He clearly has the equilibrium, and the necessary arrogance, to handle the big time. "I think having a long amateur pedigree [he boxed over 40 times for England and won a world bronze medal] taught me how to handle pressure and the rollercoaster of emotions boxing brings. It builds your character. You become accustomed to what a ruthless world it is out there. You learn to believe in yourself."
Of the Haiti-born Pascal, 26, winnerof all his 21 fights, Froch says: "He's a slippery, skilful boxer who reminds me a lot of Roy Jones Jnr, the way he throws his punches. Once I start landing my hard digs they tend to fall over, but with this guy I'm going to box and move a bit, hit him and not get hit back. We'll see if he can go to the trenches with me, and who comes out first."
Out of the ring you are more likely to find Froch scouring the property pages than the back pages. "This can be a short-term career and you never know when your last fight is gonna be. I've been under the knife a few times with hand operations, and have a reconstructed knee. I live quietly and instead of blowing my money on fast cars and Rolex watches I've been putting it into bricks and mortar."
He owns properties in London and Nottingham and has a deal with international consultants working on developments in Bulgaria and Turkey, something he has in common with Calzaghe. He has already lined up his next TV date: appearing on Channel 4 discussing overseas property markets. But first The Cobra has a starring role in his own reality TV show next Saturday. You might call it: "I Want To Be A Celebrity... Let Me Get In There!"
Froch v Pascal is live on ITV1 at 10.45pm next Saturday
Amir Khan v Oisin Fagan
Amir's back from Hollywood, albeit the spit-and-sawdust end of Tinseltown, vowing to prove he still has superstar quality on what Sky are calling 'Judgement Night' (Sky Box Office pay-per-view from 10pm: 08442 410 888), when London's Excel becomes a repair shop for several fractured reputations. Has Freddie Roach done for Khan what Floyd Mayweather's dad did for Ricky Hatton: made a new young man of him? He comes up against the durable Oklahoma-based Oisin Fagan. The Irishman, 34, though no bonecrusher, is aware of Khan's new vulnerability and will give it his best shot. This time, Khan must ensure it doesn't land on his chin.
Enzo Maccarinelli v Johnathon Banks
Enzo Maccarinelli is also picking himself up after his demoralising defeat by David Haye in March, when he surrendered his WBO cruiserweight title. He has a chance to regain it against Johnathon Banks of the US, undefeated in 20 fights and, worryingly, a bit of a hitter. If the Welshman is still gun-shy he faces an uncomfortable night, as will Audley Harrison if he doesn't finally stir himself against the Belfast cabbie Martin Rogan.
Oscar De La Hoya v Manny Pacquiao
Like the Hitman, the Hayemaker will keep an eye on the biggest and most intriguing set-to of 2008 in Las Vegas, when Oscar De La Hoya, the original Golden Boy, meets Manny Pacquiao. Hatton wants the winner at Wembley; Haye wants to see if lightweight champ Pacquiao can punch a hole in the adage that a good big 'un beats a good little 'un. Both are multi-weight world champions, and the legend De La Hoya may have a stone advantage over the Filipino currently rated boxing's best pound-for-pounder. Khan has been sparring with Pacquiao and tips him to win, but the bookies suggest size matters.
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