Carl Froch is now a British ringmaster enjoying the very best of the spoils available to a world champion with little to prove but an awful lot to defend.
On Saturday at a sold-out MEN Arena, Manchester, Froch will have his 11th consecutive world-title fight when he defends his WBA and IBF super-middleweight belts against George Groves. It is in many ways a clash of boxing cultures and Froch has not been happy with all the attempts by Groves to wind him up. "He's not under my skin but I did want to hit him at one point just to shut him up," confirmed Froch.
Groves, who is 11 years younger, denies intentionally annoying him and counters that it is Froch's insecurities and not his goading that is the real problem. Groves has a point because the so-called "trash" talking from him has been disrespectful and even light-hearted but certainly not insulting. "He's been a good champion, beaten some good fighters but he needs constant reassurance," said Groves, who is unbeaten in 19 fights. "Flattery is not my thing."
Froch has always been better at fighting than he is at "trash" talking and inside the ring he has compiled a stunning record with a collection of breathtaking wins, often against the odds and always in fights with something special. The awkward passage of the Nottingham fighter from becoming the first English boxer to win a medal at the World Amateur Championships to world champion veteran has included a journey across various television companies, in the company of different promoters and several 50-50 fights in America, Finland and Denmark.
"I have done it the hard way, the long way and the proper way," he said. "I have not had anything given to me on either side of the ropes. I know that I have been in hard fights against favourites and those are the fights that make a champion. I'm a champion now."
In 2008 Froch beat Canada's Jean Pascal to win his first world title live on ITV on a Saturday night in front of an audience of six million. It was a fantastic fight, a hard night and great to watch; it was also ITV's goodbye to the sport, a move that still mystifies.
Froch then fought terrific fighters in back-to-back classics, losing twice on the road before his last fight, a points win at London's O2 in May this year against Mikkel Kessler which did stunning business on Sky's controversial pay-per-view arm. In 2010 Froch defied the volcanic ash cloud on a tiny plane, which left everybody puking, to land in Denmark and lose a tight decision to Kessler. The only other defeat on Froch's record of 31 wins was in Atlantic City to Andre Ward, possibly the best active fighter in the world right now. "I had to beat Kessler and I did," added Froch. "I want to fight Ward again, but it will not be pretty. He's boring, it's that simple."
Groves wanders into this landscape of respect and achievement with an irreverent dismissal of past glories and a realistic chance of proving more than a nuisance on Saturday night. Froch even admits that the fight will not be the massacre many in the boxing business expect. "Groves has something about him," he said. "He's unbeaten and that can be dangerous, he is young and that can make him foolish. He is proud and I expect a hard fight from him."
It is, however, a long way from being the hardest test of Froch's career but stranger things have happened in big domestic fights and Groves, who has just split from the trainer Adam Booth after five years, remains convinced that Froch has made the mistake. "He's too slow, too predictable and his best days are over," said Groves.
He is probably just about right on all three counts but even a Froch in gentle decline appears to have too much for Groves. However, it is the unknown elements of the natural decline of any boxer that make this fight so intriguing.Reuse content