Carl Froch, the Cobra who just loved fighting

Boxing Gloves

Carl Froch will not miss the physical and spiritual grind of his calling, nor the aggravation that comes with the deal-making and -breaking, the spats and feuds, that create as much rancour as money – although he was pretty good at that, too.

He will enjoy more time with his long-time partner Rachael Cordingley (they will marry soon) and their children, Rocco and Natalia.

But what Froch will miss, without doubt, is hitting people with ferocious intent. As his friend and trainer of 13 years, Rob McCracken, said of the world super-middleweight champion who confirmed on Tuesday the retirement that had been coming for a while, “Carl is a throwback. He just loves fighting.”

Froch – whose nom de guerre, The Cobra, identified the low-slung sniping that often paralysed his opponents – will be remembered for the string of world title bouts in which he was involved over seven years against the best 12st fighters available in a career as gilded as that of any British boxer of the past decade – and for one devastating punch, the very last one he would throw.

The classic right cross that Froch landed on the briefly undefended jaw of George Groves after 2min 43sec of the eighth round in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Arena on Saturday night, 31 May, 2014, in many ways summed up his career and attitude to life. It was calculated, delivered on his own terms and invested with the scary viciousness that lurks inside an otherwise quiet, even shy, man.

He’d set it up like the businessman he is: feinting a left and persuading his young irritant to stick his own right glove close to his chin, now vulnerable to the freight train that drove painfully down the middle on to his slackened jaw. It left Groves with his feet tangled and his brain mangled, as he clambered to rise from the position of least dignity. He didn’t make it.

They embraced, as fighters do. But they will never be friends. That is the other side of Froch. As polite and accommodating as he can be, he is a man of very definite opinions as one American boxing writer discovered.

In recent months Froch was considering a farewell fight against the awesome middleweight Gennady Golovkin – one weight division down from his own – but did not reckon it was worth the effort, a reasonable view but one which inspired Dan Rafael of ESPN to Tweet: “If @Carl_Froch thinks he’s too big and strong for @GGGBoxing wonderful. Then fight the guy and prove it. Simple as that. Otherwise, silence.”

Froch seriously dislikes that sort of high-handed advice, especially from someone whose connection to his business is restricted to banging on a laptop. He replied: “@danrafaelespn You should know as much as anyone, boxing is never that simple So say something constructive. Otherwise, silence.” In the rough-and-tumble world of boxing, it was an everyday exchange. Froch has had plenty in his time. But it was not always so.

It is 17 years since I first saw Froch fight, on a Saturday night in Barnsley against a tough soldier from Portsmouth, and neither of us imagined he would retire a multi-millionaire, a celebrated world champion and, ultimately, a man in a suit holding a microphone in front of a TV camera while his mobile phone buzzes with news of his latest business transaction.

Indeed, when Sergeant Chris Bessey, the England amateur team captain, showed the flash, hands-down kid from Nottingham what the game was all about to win the ABA 71kg title in 1998, Froch dedicated himself to making the Great Britain squad for the Sydney Olympics two years later. He had no interest in boxing professionally.

He seemed like a straight-up young amateur, fit, dedicated and determined, with good skill and power. Froch did not make the team but the lure of money, and all the problems it could bring, had still not gripped him so he kept his amateur vest until McCracken persuaded him to turn over in 2002 with his London associate, Mick Hennessy.

On that Barnsley bill 17 years ago were two other boxers who, in different ways, would have an impact on the professional game: Jim Twite, a light-hitting amateur middleweight, went on to make a name for himself by knocking out the future world heavyweight champion David Haye with a single punch at York Hall in Bethnal Green a year later; and the 91kg champion Audley Harrison, who would win gold at the Sydney Olympics but was destined to be knocked out by Haye in three rounds of pure farce in Manchester 10 years after that.

What is significant about that circled coincidence is that Froch, just turned 38, has decided after 15 years as a pro that he has had enough.

Haye, at 34 but inactive for nearly three years, promises on a monthly basis he is coming back while the 44-year-old Harrison also regularly teases boxing fans with the dubious prospect of a return.

For all that Froch began as a reluctant professional he not only became a terrific one, but a smart one too. His goodbye words from the active side of his sport hit the mark as accurately as the night he knocked out George Groves: “I have nothing left to prove.”

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for The Guardian on Tuesday 14th July 2015 18.51 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010