Steve Bunce on Boxing: A 10-year journey for Carl Froch to become an overnight success


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The Independent Online

In the warm glow of Saturday's fight it is easy to forget it has taken Carl Froch 10 years and 10 world title fights to become an overnight success.

It is also easy to overlook that he turned professional live on the BBC after becoming the first English boxer to win a medal at the amateur World Championships. Somewhere between his live debut on terrestrial television in 2002 and his prominent role in Sky reinstating pay-per-view on Saturday, Froch fell off the grid and remained under the radar.

"We can start to build Carl now," said Eddie Hearn, the man who has been involved in promoting Froch's last five fights, and he is right. Froch has spoken about four more fights, possibly over a four-year period, and each has the potential to exceed Saturday's unforgettable attraction.

Froch is in great fights and always has been, yet he bounced from television company to television company like a concussed fighter reeling all over the prize ring of exposure. The BBC did its bit before sliding away from the sport, ITV filled a gap and more than 3.3 million watched Froch win his first world title in December 2008; it was not enough to save the deal. It was, however, Froch's 24th consecutive win and, amazingly, there were no takers for his planned first defence and his promoter at the time, Mick Hennessy, opted to screen the fight online and live from America.

In the fight, which took place in April 2004, Froch had been dropped and was trailing on the scorecards but rallied in a modern classic to stop Jermain Taylor with less than 20 seconds left in the final round. The Five Live commentary is breathtaking, a genuine rare document now; thankfully, ITV agreed to a delayed screening and Froch's days as an online star were over.

Froch has an edge, there is no denying that, and in the days before a fight the edge is sharper, his tolerance levels are perhaps a bit lower. I like him, but a lot of the press over the years have struggled; there was a throwaway and mildly disrespectful line in his superb autobiography about the press that could have added to the often frosty relationship. However, compared to a Premier League player he is dream to deal with.

In 2011 Froch fought on Sky in America against a hard man called Glen Johnson and nobody looks good against Johnson. Froch won, stayed in America for his next fight and lost on points to Andre Ward. The fights took place in Atlantic City, not New York or Las Vegas where there is far more chance of making an impact on the boxing circuit. In late 2011 Froch had won and lost two world titles, had been in seven world title fights and as he approached his next fight it was – amazing to think now – viewed as his last chance.

Things started to change in May last year against the unbeaten and hot favourite Lucian Bute, who had been confident enough Froch was shot that he opted to travel to Nottingham for the fight. Froch won in five. A few months later he ruined the American Yusuf Mack in three to gallop from the front into last Saturday's Mikkel Kessler fight.

It has taken five different television companies to screen his fights, BBC Five Live has broadcast 11 of his last 14 fights and a trio of sell-out venues in Britain have finally combined to make Froch the champion he deserves to be. He's not Frank Bruno yet, but there is still time.

As for the next fight, well, a third meeting with Kessler has not been ruled out and there is nothing quite like a trilogy to help define a great fighter's career. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier set a standard boxers dream of and men like Froch like to dream. He has spent the last 10 years dreaming that he would be where he is now and, after 10 world, five British and eight Commonwealth title fights, he has arrived.