By James Wilkinson @Wilkinsing
Have you ever knocked out George Groves in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium? Probably not. There’s only one person who has and he has become well known for telling us all about it.
It has become a boxing in-joke that Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch likes to talk about his last fight a lot but why shouldn’t he? He was the headliner in a fight that, at the time, had the biggest attendance of any boxing event since the Second World War (80,000 people at Wembley Stadium, if you’d forgotten) but of course that couldn’t have happened without the previous thirty two wins and two losses of his career.
Carl Froch was born on 2nd July 1977 in Nottingham. A gifted sportsman from an early age, he initially wanted to become a footballer but soon caught the boxing bug. As an Amateur he won two ABA titles in 1999 and 2001 at Middleweight going on to win a Bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships in Belfast.
Froch turned pro in 2002. He was trained from his debut to retirement, 12 years later, by Rob McCracken who was instrumental in the success of Team GB and has since become the trainer of Anthony Joshua. McCracken maintains that he doesn’t think he’ll ever train another fighter like Carl Froch – “He can carry out a plan, box or fight, has a will to win and bravery that has enabled him to overcome fighters with more power and skill – they just succumb.”
The early career of The Cobra went as expected comfortably dealing with a series of journeymen before the first real tests arrived along with their titles. He won the English super-middleweight belt in 2003 with the British and Commonwealth straps coming in 2004. It was then a four year wait and a string of defences before Nottingham’s home-grown hero would get his first world title shot.
In 2008, Froch fought Canadian Jean Pascal for the vacant WBC super-middleweight title. The fight was the first real appearance of the famous granite chin that Froch became know for and after a 12-round slog, the Englishman won a points decision, later revealing that he had suffered a perforated ear drum and cracked rib in his final sparring session, proving the courage of The Cobra.
The fight that cemented Carl Froch in his position as one of the best in the world came in 2009 and ended in the most dramatic fashion. Jermain Taylor was ahead of Froch on all of the judges cards going into the 12th round and a loss was looming. In a twist that belonged in a Rocky film Froch unleashed a relentless storm of punches and stopped Taylor with 14 seconds left in the fight.
With his star on the rise, Froch entered the Super Six World Boxing Classic putting his belt on the line in the hope of picking up a few more. After a split decision win against Andre Dirrell he came up against his great rival, Mikkel Kessler for the first time. He suffered the first loss of his career against Kessler losing a unanimous decision in Denmark. There were claims that the decision was unfairly swayed by home advantage but it wouldn’t be long until Froch had the chance to take his revenge.
The Cobra returned to winning ways through the next rounds of the tournament, regaining his WBC belt and progressing all the way to the final where he faced one of the best fighters to ever walk the planet. Andre Ward brought his WBA belt along with his masterful skill to the table and managed something that no one else had, he neutralised Froch with his jab and won a unanimous decision to take both of the titles and the Ring Magazine belt, as well as serving Froch with the second loss of his career.
He wouldn’t be without a belt for long as the IBF ordered him as the mandatory for their world title against Lucian Bute. Carl Froch became a three-time world champion in his hometown of Nottingham, stopping Bute via TKO in the fifth after which, BoxRec named Froch as ‘Fighter of the Year’ for 2012.
In 2013, as a three-time champion in the autumn of his career, only big fights would do for Carl Froch and he was granted just that. A huge rematch against Mikkel Kessler for the unified super-middleweight championships set the boxing world alight. This time with the home advantage in his favour, Froch won a unanimous decision against his Danish rival. Despite the whole boxing public desperate for the third fight and both fighters apparently keen to deliver it, the rubber match between the two great rivals never materialised.
Instead of the third fight against Kessler, Froch fought his mandatory challenger, George Groves in what was to become a career defining two-part war. A bitter rivalry soon developed between the two Englishmen with Groves winning the verbal and mental battles, seeming to get into Froch’s head like no opponent had before. This became evident within the first round of the fight when Froch was put to the canvas, for only the second time in his career, by a stinging left hook, right hand combination. The fight evened out as it developed until it was, controversially, stopped by the referee in the ninth round. Froch was victorious but the controversy over the stoppage led the IBF to order a rematch.
Froch v Groves 2 in front of (all together now) 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium.
The genuine animosity between the two fighters escalated through the build-up to the second fight which helped to spread the fight to the mainstream. The fight began tentatively as both men knew and respected each other’s power and skill. In the 8th round, with Froch narrowly ahead, he pinned Groves against the ropes and delivered a right hand with the venom befitting his nickname. BBC boxing commentator, Mike Costello described it as “The best punch you will ever see in a British boxing ring.” It was a punch that gave Froch the undeniable victory he lacked in the first fight, it closed the book on George Groves and was, ultimately, the last punch thrown by Carl Froch in a professional boxing ring.
Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch ended his decorated career in 2014 as a three time, unified, super-middleweight champion of the world and as the fighter who revitalised huge nights of stadium boxing in the UK. He was never in a dull fight and put everything on the line in every fight. A man who made his fans proud to support him and a boxer who is undoubtedly one of our British, all-time greats.