By Daniel Cann
Britain’s Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch, did as was widely expected, by beating Jamaican born, US based Glen Johnson. At the weigh-in I noted how strong and healthy Froch looked despite an earlier visit to the hospital to have some fluid drained from one of his ears. His eyes looked alert and there was a clear vitality to him. He looked sharp and exuded confidence. In contrast Johnson, ever the professional and tagged ‘The Road Warrior’ looked drawn, drained and dry. His body looked tremendous but facially he looked all of his 42 years. I wondered if he had come in too light at 166 pounds to the WBC champions 167. The fight proved just how wrong appearances can be as instead of the one-sided win I expected it was instead quite a struggle for the fancied 33-year-old defending champion as he won on a majority not unanimous decision.
Two judges scored it clearly for Froch 117 – 111 and 116 – 112. Yet judge Nobuaki Yuratani surprisingly had it a draw at 114 – 114 sparking protests and criticism from the Froch camp. A win is a win, but you do sometimes question how three qualified officials can see such a different contest even when they have the arguably the best seats in the house. That said boxing and sport in general has always had its share of controversy and will continue to do so, we are all only human after all, even judges!
‘I thought I won the fight easily. I don’t know what the other judge (Yuratani) was thinking.’ An exasperated Froch said afterwards. But as the old maxim goes ‘A win is a win.’ Froch was very respectful to his beaten foe and conceded that Johnson was very tough ‘He was like an oak tree.’ Froch also admitted that he started off slowly but increased his workrate over the course of the contest, perhaps his strategy was to wear down or even stop Johnson, yet many have tried to do that and failed, Johnson has to be one of the most durable boxers in the sport today and at his advanced age (in boxing terms anyway) he is exceptional.
Johnson who in the past has been on the end of so many bad decisions to local favourites was sporting at the end of this one admitting that he thought it was close but he seemed to accept the decision against him this time. ‘I feel like that was the kind of fight fans like to see.’ No one would argue with that. It was an absorbing and eventful slog, in the typical mode for a Froch fight, gruelling and at times brutal. Froch had to soak up quite a few hard rights from his veteran opponent over the course of the fight and he will definitely need to tighten up his defence if he is to defeat WBA champion Andre Ward in the Super Six final scheduled for later this year.
It wasn’t spectacular but it was entertaining and the main thing for the likeable Briton is that he got through yet another tough test, proving his courage and resilience.
The first three rounds of the contest saw Froch looking tentative and getting caught by Johnson’s jab and a decent right in the third. Froch had a better fourth as he moved well and picked off Johnson at range. The fifth was even with both men landing well, Johnson with the jab and to the body, Froch’s workrate however was improving. In the last half minute of the round Froch really poured it on and a dejected looking Johnson trudged back to his corner.
The sixth saw Johnson stalk and Froch winning with his higher workrate. The champion was caught again by a big right but he looked much more comfortable now. The seventh proved that Johnson was still very much there and a live opponent as both traded freely for prolonged periods it really was give and take stuff.
The eighth saw more thrilling exchanges with Froch again having to take a monstrous right, but he was doing most of the work again and took the round. The ninth was all Froch with his good movement and ring-craft. The worrying early rounds were by now a distant memory and it looked like Froch was beginning to pull away in the scoring. The champion is a notorious slow starter, but as the Jermain Taylor contest showed you write him off at your peril. Froch is dangerous from the first bell right up to the last.
The tenth saw more give and take as Froch had to soak up more right hand bombs. Notably he never flinched or lost his composure he kept standing there and fired right back which must have disheartened Johnson who by now probably wondered what he had to do to get Froch out of there. Froch must have the best chin in the division!
The eleventh was more of the same, sporadic but intense action with both men landing with big punishing blows. The action really heated up just before the bell to end the session. The twelfth and final round saw Froch utilising his jab well proving as he did in the Arthur Abraham fight that when called for he can box exceptionally well. It’s a shame he gets dragged into brawls and wars so easily but that is all part of Froch’s appeal. He easily took the first half of this round with his better boxing and although Johnson was hanging in tough showing defiance right up to the end it was a clear round to the champion. Johnson showed a lot of heart and tenacity as he always does but in the final analysis Froch just had a little bit more.
The Super Six tournament has proved to be incredibly draining for its participants with a gruelling schedule. There have been no soft touches or voluntary defences for its participants. It has been great for boxing in that half a dozen of the best boxers at 168 have met each other over the course of two years, but it is still inconclusive who is the best in the division. With last nights contest we have moved a step closer to finding that out. The winner of Froch versus Ward this autumn will hopefully go on to face IBF champion Canada’s Lucian Butte sometime in 2012. Then we can really say who the best boxer is at super-middleweight.
Froch versus Ward will be interesting as Froch will find the roles reversed next time, he will be the older fighter up against the arguably fresher opponent in 27 year old Ward. The American has not had as tough a time in his Super Six contests breezing past the opposition in style posting great wins over Froch conqueror (in a close disputed decision last year in Denmark) Mikkel Kessler (who also won on the Froch v Johnson bill) and clearly beating another common opponent with Froch in Arthur Abraham who Ward beat convincingly on points last time out (Froch showed Ward how to do it a few months earlier).
To be fair to Froch since he won the title against Jean Pascal in 2008 he has not had one single ‘easy’ or soft defence. He has mixed it with the very best in the division and given a great account of himself proving he has a granite jaw and a strong will to match. He needs a rest and then he will have to prepare himself mentally and physically for the toughest fight of his career against Ward. The difference between the two men is that Froch has gone to the well many times before and come up trumps whereas Ward has still not been in a testing, soul –searching contest yet. He may have the edge in youth and skill but Froch is just the man to test Ward’s mettle.
It will be an eagerly anticipated match-up that I am sure will set the seal on both men’s careers. Both already deserve kudos for reaching the final of one of the toughest elimination tournaments in memory. I cannot wait to see Froch and Ward test themselves against each other and I am sure they will provide us with something to remember. For now both fighters can take a deserved break and bask in their achievements over the last two years, because believe me the hardest test of their careers is just around the corner.