Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Carl Froch: Taylor Made for TV?

Strangely enough, the much anticipated super-middleweight bout between Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor will only be available to British boxing fans via online pay-per-view.

Dave Crellin gives his take on Carl Froch and examines just why the entertaining Nottingham fighter is being slighted by UK television broadcasters.

Photos © Justin McKie

At the World Amateur Boxing Championships of 2001, David Haye and Carl Froch won England’s first ever medals, both silver. They both turned pro shortly afterwards and have gone on to world championship professional careers using a hands-down, strong-punching style. But the impression they’re making on the British public is markedly different.

Haye was operating in a relatively unknown division before moving to heavyweight, globally notoriously understaffed with quality performers and domestically dominated by the mediocre merry-go-round of Williams, Harrison, Skelton and Sprott with a few others thrown in for good measure. It’s not that exciting. On top of which, Haye has based himself in Cyprus for a while now, hardly the Ricky Hatton way of maximising your home fan base.

But Haye’s talent for self-promotion sees his upcoming fight with Wladimir Klitschko as being the most talked-about in the country while Froch’s defence of his WBC super middleweight belt against Jermain Taylor isn’t even being carried on any British television channel. Why? Well, Haye’s looks certainly help – he wears the playboy image well while Froch, athlete though he is, is no oil painting, sporting a nose which is, for a man who’s been getting into boxing rings for two decades, frankly astounding. But if the British boxing public were so aesthetically demanding it’s hard to understand how Hatton can draw 30,000 Mancunians to Las Vegas.

Style-wise, it’s hard to think of a dull Froch bout. He’s won all of 24, the majority by knockout and even when the judges are called into use it’s no indication of a lull in the action – in decisioning Jean Pascal last time out the two produced a late candidate for 2008’s fight of the year. Amazingly, Setanta, Sky and ITV all decided not to bid for the fight. Instead it will be streamed over the web on a dedicated site: some consolation for Froch’s British fans but hardly the way to maximise the fan base of a man who, although still fresh, is now on the old side of 30.

This is the nub of the Froch enigma. He’s certainly no shrinking violet. He’s been brashly confident in his own abilities since his amateur days and he’s happy to let anybody know it. He’s been calling out Joe Calzaghe for years and in spite of the Welshman’s now-legendary status in Britain it would be a hell of a contest. But that fight has never materialised and while Haye has managed to taunt and tempt Klitschko into the ring (in the absence of the next aging or overweight B-grade challenger) Froch hasn’t been able to secure the fight that would cement him in the identity of the British public. Instead he has boisterous home-town support in Nottingham and the appreciation of the cognoscenti. Beyond that, vague name recognition is as far as it goes.

Maybe it’s an indictment of the value of a world amateur medal. If we compare recent British boxing medallists, Frankie Gavin’s world gold is secondary in the mind of the ticket buyer to his dashed hype at the Olympics, when he failed to make weight. Amir Khan’s medal at the 2004 Olympics was the same colour as Froch’s at the worlds, but Khan quickly attracted serious endorsement and is being built into a pay-per-view star. Froch is in the same league of talent as these two and has the bonus of a world championship belt in a famously Brit-friendly division.

So maybe he just never had the kick-start to his career that he needed. Which makes it all the more annoying that, by turning out impressive performance after impressive performance, he is consistently putting on shows which would be perfect introductions to one of the more exciting fighters operating at world championship level. Maybe, with the BBC being stung from paying over the odds for Audley Harrison and ITV having invested in Amir Khan to make him into a PPV name for SKY, the domestic channels are wary of the sport and of a guy who, in spite of an apparently sturdy set of whiskers, does leave himself bum-tighteningly open. Frank Warren is firmly ensconced with SKY which leaves Setanta. And if they don’t want it…

All this means Froch is mooting a move to the US should his defence against Taylor be successful. It would be a shame for the Brits but a boon for the US fight scene – Froch is a genuinely exciting fighter with power which, at 168 pounds, is a rare commodity. The combination of strength and work rate should make him the favourite to beat Taylor and move on to the likes of Bute and Kessler, appetising match-ups in different ways. Either way, his abilities are beyond question. Just ask him.

By Dave Crellin


Anonymous said...

www.omnisport.tv showing Froch exclusively live in the UK - BE PART OF IT. . .