Andre Ward, the only fighter to properly embarrass Carl Froch – and a God-fearing man for whom leaving his hometown of Oakland, California, is an ordeal – is seriously thinking about coming to the UK for a rematch, says Froch's promoter, Eddie Hearn.
"He sounds like he would be willing to do it," Hearn said of the notoriously travel-wary American, after Froch had kept his IBF version of the super-middleweight title with a third-round blitz of Ward's compatriot, Yusaf Mack, in Nottingham on Saturday night.
The fight was far removed from the quality of Ward's wide points win over Froch in Atlantic City last year, and the Californian affected such indifference to it beforehand he said he would not be watching on television. That is a bit hard to believe of a man conducting exploratory discussions about a second bout — especially when his own options are limited.
Ward, who holds the WBC title and the WBA "super" belt, is coming off a 12th-round stoppage of Chad Dawson, and has a defence, but no confirmed opponent or venue, slated for 26 January. He is a gifted champion, the self-proclaimed Son Of God, but not a great ticket seller.
That is a vacuum Hearn is keen to exploit, although Froch also has obligations: a mandatory challenge from the 35-year-old Canadian southpaw knockout specialist Adonis Stevenson, and a contracted second fight with Lucian Bute, whom he took apart in five rounds to win the title.
There is also Mikkel Kessler, who narrowly outpointed Froch in Denmark two and a half years ago, and who defends his WBA "world" version of the championship at home against Brian Magee of Northern Ireland, on 8 December.
Hearn says Kessler does not sound so keen on meeting Froch again, while Bute – who outpointed Russia's Dennis Grachev over 12 rounds in Montreal two weeks ago – does not seem as willing as he once did.
Froch, 35, can do no more than his job in the ring, which did not extend him long in front of 10,000 of his Nottingham fans at the Capital FM Arena. He emerged without so much as a bruise from his ninth straight world-title fight after reducing Mack, a grandfather from Philadelphia, to an inert wreck in eight and a half minutes.
However, the champion's own hurt lay deeper. Hours later, he was still seething about the remarks of a rival promoter, Frank Warren, in a newspaper column on the morning of the fight.
In one respect, the sight of Mack on the canvas in the third round after a nervous and abject challenge supported Warren's contention that the American (who fathered the first of nine children when he was 14, the eldest of whom is also a parent) was "a second-tier fighter". He was right, too, to point out that Mack, 32, has not had an accredited outing at 12st in five years. And, had he been in Nottingham, he would have heard the boos that greeted Mack's capitulation to a devastating body shot and a finishing left hook.
But where Froch and Hearn took issue with Warren was his deconstruction of what every respected analyst regards as the most convincing CV of any current British fighter, stretching back four years against the best available opposition – not to mention his observation that, "certain vested interests are trying desperately to pass off Froch as a British boxing great. Do me a favour!"
He added: "Carl's a tough, gutsy so-and-so with a granite chin and has done England proud for several years now. But he's no legend."
Everyone has an opinion in boxing, few of them universal, but Hearn said: "Why does he want to knock Froch? Why can't he get behind a British fighter? I don't see how it's in his interest to put down other fighters and promoters. It's good for British boxing, for everyone, to have Carl Froch winning and keeping world titles. We are all in the same business."
Warren would contend it's a tough, competitive business not suited to accommodating rivals. That has always been his style (although he did briefly work alongside Eddie's father, Barry).
Froch is not bothered about that side of it, though, and took the attack personally — especially as he never got to fight Warren's great super-middleweight, Joe Calzaghe, who retired unbeaten. Predictably Warren blames Froch for that, and Froch blames Warren and Calzaghe.
His trainer, Robert McCracken, says: "Carl is a terrific fighter. I've known him for a very long time. There's nobody around quite like him and he could easily box on for another two or maybe even five years."
So Froch is well placed to continue at the highest level in a division that at the top, at least, has a handful of very attractive options.
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