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Carl Froch: Britain’s Unheralded Superstar

July 17, 2011 Leave a comment

If truth be told, boxing is something of a secondary sport in Britain but sometimes a world class British fighter comes along who transcends the sport and becomes a crossover star. Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan, David Haye and Barry McGuigan all fit this description, as do super-middleweights Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Joe Calzaghe. But fellow 168 pounder Carl Froch? Not quite. In fact, not even close.

If one looks at this from a purely sporting standpoint, there is no obvious reason why this should be the case. Froch is a two-time (and the current) WBC World Super-Middleweight champion and in a country which enjoys relatively little sporting success, it is astonishing that this fact has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. In terms of boxing ability, Froch is very much worthy of being mentioned in the same breath of the fighters listed above. The Nottingham-born fighter can box technically and to a game plan (as he showed against Arthur Abraham), but he is, at heart, very much a fighter who likes nothing more than a good old-fashioned tear up. Froch’s style is consequently very much a crowd-pleasing one, as anybody who watched his fights against Jean-Pascal and Mikkel Kessler can testify. He has regularly demonstrated a willingness to fight anybody anywhere and his involvement in Showtime’s Super Six tournament has seen him take on Mikkel Kessler in Denmark, Arthur Abraham in Finland and Glen Johnson in the United States. How many other top tier fighters would be prepared to adopt this ‘have gloves will travel’ approach? The level of opposition Froch has faced in the last three years reads like a who’s who of the super-middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions: Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson. These fighters have a combined record of 191-19-3. Such high quality opposition over such a long period time is unrivalled in world boxing and with the exception of the Kessler fight; Froch was victorious on each occasion.

Froch in action against Andre Dirrell (This image is the property of AP)

Furthermore, he is an affable, intelligent and articulate man who is happy to appear on television and to talk to his fans. So, in short, here is a likeable, world-class athlete with a crowd-pleasing style that is not even recognised by the majority of the British public? One must therefore ask, what has gone wrong?

As a sport, boxing is somewhat anomalous in that the biggest stars are not necessarily the best exponents of the art. Promotion is the key and if a promoter is able to generate enough hype and get his charge enough television exposure, the fighter in question is half-way to being a star. Add a fan-friendly style to the mix and you have a recipe for fame and fortune, almost regardless of the fighter’s ability. Unfortunately for Froch, he has been criminally under-promoted. From the start of Froch’s professional career in 2002 until earlier this year, the super-middleweight was promoted by Mick Hennessy and whilst Hennessy is highly regarded in the business, he failed to give his stable’s leading light anything like enough media exposure. This was partly the result of bad luck as a deal Hennessy had with ITV collapsed when the network announced that that it was pulling out of boxing, but despite many promises, the promoter never succeeded in getting his charge’s fights screened on Sky Sports. Froch’s fights against Taylor, Dirrell and Kessler were instead shown on backwater PPV channel Primetime, meaning that British fight fans were forced to pay £14.95 for the pleasure of watching on a channel most had never heard of. This inevitably had a detrimental effect on viewing figures and is a reason that Froch is British boxing’s best kept secret.

“Carl Froch is a world-class fighter, yet no one knows
him outside his own living room and that can’t be right.” (Barry Hearn)

After becoming disillusioned with not getting the recognition his accomplishments in the ring merited, Froch decided to cut ties with Hennessy and become self-promoted. In an interview filmed with the BBC shortly after the split was announced, the super-middleweight champion said that he had effectively ‘been self promoted for ages to be honest’ and that he was hopeful of striking a deal with Sky, which he described as ‘the best platform for boxing.’  At the age of 34, Froch does not have a great deal of time left at boxing’s top table and this seems to have dawned on him. By his own admission, ‘not everybody knows who Carl Froch is.’ He obviously felt the need to go his own way in search of the credit he deserves and upon reflection, he appears to have realised that parting ways with Hennessy was necessary. When asked about parting ways with his promoter, Froch said that it ‘went wrong in a lot of areas,’ and that things are now in the hands of lawyers. It does however; seem that the fighter has been vindicated.

His most recent fight, against Glen Johnson, was shown live on Sky Sports and the broadcaster is also the favourite to screen his showdown with American superstar Andre Ward in October. After fighting the man widely regarded as the best super-middleweight in the world, Froch wants to have a big homecoming fight in Nottingham, possibly at his beloved Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. Froch therefore says he wants to speak to a big name promoter about the staging of such of an event and Matchroom Sport’s Barry Hearn has already expressed a keen interest on doing just that. As Hearn himself puts it: ‘Carl Froch is a world-class fighter, yet no one knows him outside his own living room and that can’t be right.’  Here’s hoping that changes before Froch hangs up his gloves.

Categories: Boxing

Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye: Big Fight Preview

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Tonight the Imtech Arena in Hamburg, Germany plays host to the most highly anticipated heavyweight fight in nearly a decade as WBO and IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko takes on Britain’s WBA title holder David Haye. Not since Vitali Klitschko challenged undisputed champion Lennox Lewis way back in June 2003 has the boxing world been so abuzz with excitement at a fight in the sport’s marquee division.

It seems like the pre-fight build up has lasted an eternity. In fact it started more than two years ago when the two signed for a June 2009 fight at Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins Arena. Haye pulled out of that fight citing a back injury, something which Wladimir has doubted in the build-up to tonight’s showdown. It has however, been a blessing in disguise as the fight is now much bigger than it would have been two years ago. Haye is now an established heavyweight with a recognised world title of his own to bring to the party and so what we now have is a genuine unification fight.

Much has been made of Haye’s conduct during the pre-fight media engagements. Violent language, an iphone app which involves punching off the head of an Eastern European giant, t-shirts with severed Klitschko heads and calling the Ukrainian a ‘d!*#head’ on HBO’s Face Off show. None of this has endeared Haye to many people within the sport and if truth be told, the Englishman has come across as childish, uncouth and perhaps a man masking inner doubts with outward bravado. Whatever the case, it has certainly helped generate interest in the fight and Wladimir’s charm offensive and naturally calm demeanour has made him the perfect foil.

However, with the fight only a matter of hours away the talking is nearly done and once the bell rings, it will just be the two men themselves. Sport Report Breaks down their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Tale of the Tape

Wladimir Klitschko (UKR) David Haye (GBR)
Height: 6’6½ (199cm) Height: 6’3 (191cm)
Weight: 243lb (111kg) Weight: 213lb (97.5kg)
Reach: 81’ (205cm) Reach: 78’ (198cm)
Wins: 55 Wins: 25
Losses: 3 Losses: 1
Draws: 0 Draws: 0
KOs: 49 KOs: 23

Wladimir Klitschko

Strengths

  • Hugely experienced. The WBO and IBF champion has been a professional since 1996 and has fought 58 times, 18 of which have been world championship fights.
  • Size. Klitschko has significant height and weight advantages over his opponent and more importantly, he is good enough to make use of them. Klitschko’s trainer and boxing legend Manny Steward was keen to recite the old adage ‘a good big man always beats a good small man.’
  • Jab. The best jab in the business and unlike many fighters who use it simply as a range finder, Klitschko’s is a genuine weapon. Some have called it the hardest jab since Sonny Liston’s.
  • Power. Make no mistake, the Ukrainian can punch. He has stopped nine of his last ten opponents and 49 of his 55 career victories have come inside the distance.

Wladimir Klitschko was much criticised for his safety first approach against Eddie Chambers, but still got the job done by KO (This image is the property of Reuters)

Weaknesses

Chin. Klitschko’s ‘chinnyness’ is well documented and you cannot ignore the fact that all three of his defeats have been inflicted inside the distance. He has been on the canvas on several occasions, most notably in his September 2005 win over Samuel Peter when he touched down three times.

  • Negative mindset. Despite his immense physical skills, Klitschko is prone to self-doubt, probably as a result of past knockout defeats. This manifests itself in a reluctance to engage in the ring. Manny Steward has said that if his charge were more positive, he would be the most dangerous heavyweight in history.  Haye has targeted this, calling the Ukrainian boring. If he opts to stand off tonight, Haye will be able to dictate terms and cause him a huge amount of trouble.

David Haye

Strengths 

  • Power. Like his foe, Haye is a monstrous puncher having won 23 of 25 inside the distance. He has one punch knockout power and seems confident that he will unleash it on Klitschko in tonight’s fight and give himself an early night.
  • Speed. As a former cruiserweight, Haye is small for a heavyweight, but this gives him an advantage in the speed department. Klitschko is much quicker and more mobile than people give him credit for, but there is no doubt that this is the one area in which Haye has a clear advantage.
  • Movement. The WBA champion is quick on his feet and will look to give Klitschko angles. He has used his feet in the past to great effect, most notably in his title-winning fight against Nikolai Valuev when he moved in and out fighting in spurts.

Weaknesses

David Haye is hoping to add the WBO and IBF titles to his WBA belt (This image is the property of Getty Images)

Chin. Much like the man in the opposite corner, Haye does not have a granite chin. He has been on the canvas on numerous occasions in his career and was stopped by Carl Thompson at cruiserweight back in 2004.

  • Stamina. Haye has been known to tire as fights wear on, a consequence of the fact he often finishes people early. He will hope to make sure this is not a factor tonight. If he eats Klitschko’s jab, it will be a long and tiring night for the Londoner.
  • Inexperienced. Haye has never fought anybody of Klitschko’s class. He won his title against a poor champion, and defences against an over-the-hill John Ruiz and a dreadfully poor Audley Harrison offer little in the way of preparation for the big Ukrainian.

The Final Verdict

This is a genuine pick ‘em fight as they say in the industry. Both men are big punchers with questionable chins and so anything can happen. Haye will look to put Klitschko on the back foot early in the hope that it will make him negative. If he is able to do this, he will have a great chance of landing the bingo punch. Klitschko on the other hand will favour a measured approach, utilising his jab to dictate the pace, keep Haye at arm’s length and set up the big right cross which will signal the end of the fight if it lands cleanly. If the fight becomes something of a phoney war, it will suit the WBO and IBF champion down to the ground. He will jab all night if he has too and it is unlikely Haye will get much change out of the judges in Germany unless there is absolute no doubt.

Haye is much smaller than the big Ukrainian and his low slung left hand should be a cause for concern against a big puncher. Haye will have to take the fight to Klitschko if he is to stand any chance of winning and will consequently have to take risks. Klitschko is fast enough and good enough to cash in on this and I just feel he has too many advantages for Haye to overcome.

Sport Report Prediction: Klitschko to win inside the distance

Categories: Boxing