Should Carl Froch fail to emerge from his Super Six showdown with Andre Ward this weekend with his WBC super middleweight title intact, he'll cap a dismal year for British boxing in which a number of our world champions have relinquished their belts.
We started the year with Amir Khan, David Haye, Ricky Burns and Froch himself as legitimate title-holders, but are left only with young Nathan Cleverly, who took the WBO light heavyweight strap in May, and the irrepressible Froch.
Froch, of course, is seen by most to be up against it in Atlantic City. The unbeaten Ward is a prodigious foe, and a comparison of the two fighters' respective performances against common opponent Mikkel Kessler suggests that Froch might be in a bit of trouble. Ward handled the Great Dane easily, opening several cuts around Kessler's eyes en route to an 11th-round technical decision, whereas the Englishman dropped a contentious verdict to Kessler in Denmark. Ward, too, has the amateur pedigree -- an Olympic gold -- while Froch has the ignominy of losses to the likes of Peter Manfredo Jr. on his unpaid resume to explain away.
However, Froch is the kind of fighter for whom statistics may be irrelevant. There's a bit of throwback in the way Froch approaches a fight. His first world title fight, a decision win over Jean Pascal back in December 2008, was remarkable for the degree of punishment both fighters dished out, and absorbed. Froch simply hung his chin out and invited Pascal to take shots at it, and the Canadian duly obliged. When Froch lost that title to Kessler 15 months later, he did so with little regard for his own well-being, dropping his hands to his side, and swapping hooks and uppercuts with the powerful Dane.
A better yardstick of Froch's capabilities is the sterling performance he put on to regain the title from Arthur Abraham in November last year. Abraham, thought to be dangerous after a lopsided loss to Andre Dirrell, was a known one-punch knockout specialist, and given Froch's much-feted disregard for looking after his chin, many felt Abraham would connect early and decisively. In the end, Froch put on a superb exhibition, shut Abraham out completely, and won every round on two of the scorecards.
There's much to be optimistic about if you're a Froch fan Saturday night. The Nottingham man is phenomenally strong, and boxes in a staccato, irregular rhythm, that might just be peculiar enough to throw Ward off his game. Froch will need to curtail his desire to demonstrate the iron quality of his whiskers, and resist the temptation to drop his hands, for if he gives Ward those kinds of openings he might see matters get away from him. If Froch is able to keep Ward at range, and make proper use of a four-inch reach advantage, it's conceivable that he could frustrate the WBA champion.
Neither fighter has concussive power, as evidenced by their recent records since mixing with Super Sixers, so it seems likely that the judges will be called upon to earn their wages. Froch will know that he's on the other man's turf, and that if he's to have his hand raised after 12 rounds he'll need to win each one clearly and conclusively. That might be too tall an order against an Olympic champion who's run up a 24-0 record, picked up a legitimate world belt along the way, and has been looking more and more the finished article each time he's taken to the ring.