Head To Head: Is Carl Froch An Underappreciated Great Or A Corrosive Jerk?

There is no boxer in the world today with a CV as good as Carl Froch’s that gets so little respect. Could that have something to do with his smug, punchable face? I think so, but maybe I’m biased. In the wake of Froch’s definitive KO win over George Groves in their super middleweight rematch I sat down with TQBR founder Tim Starks to nut out our differences over “The Cobra.”
Underappreciated Great — Tim Starks
After Saturday’s “wow” knockout of despised rival George Groves, it’s well past the hour when Carl Froch should have ceased being hated or disrespected by anyone. As a fighter, and even as a personality, he has not gotten his due.As a fighter, he is never in a bad scrap and has beaten everyone he has ever faced except super middleweight champion Andre Ward, something that happens to everyone who faces Ward. People can debate, and rightfully have since his rematch win over Groves, his place in the pantheon of great British fighters and great super middleweights. On both counts he belongs behind Joe Calzaghe, but he has inched up into his neighborhood. There are people who would’ve told you before this fight that he belonged behind the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux on any pound-for-pound lists, which is insane: Rigo has beaten exactly two top fighters in his division and exactly one pound-for-pound top 10 fighter, while Froch has beaten the same number of pound-for-pound fighters and eight top super middles in a far deeper division. Yet because he looks unskilled, people constantly underestimate him. You’d think at a certain point that six years of fighting and beating only the best opposition would disabuse people of their biases, but it does not. You’d think his pounding of the fast, skilled Lucian Bute would disabuse people of the notion that visible talent equals pound-for-pound excellence, but it didn’t. Surely, some will still doubt him going forward. But at a certain point, the perception that he is overachieving based on what genetics or providence gave him should be considered a plus, not a minus, and probably ought to lead to an adjustment in people’s expectations of what he can, in fact, achieve.On his personality, well, taste is subjective. Anyone who is rubbed the wrong way by Froch is entitled to it. He has, at times, annoyed even me, and I enjoy his antics more than most. But consider whether any hostility you have toward Froch is irrational, at least. I showed my roommate, who has only seen as much boxing as I’ve shown him, the “Gloves Are Off” segment for Froch-Groves II. Without any comment on either fighter and my preferences, he came away hoping that Groves would lose. The arrogance that Froch sometimes evinces? Groves doubled it, and Froch at least offered some self-deprecating remarks about how dumb it was to call himself an “international superstar.” The reason Froch’s arrogance is so tolerable to me is that, for the most part, he has backed up his bold talk — and perhaps that’s also, in a double-edged blade kind of way, why some can like Groves and not Froch; we’ve been living with Froch’s trash talk a lot longer. But overall, how many fighters are equally imperious to, or even more imperious than, Froch? Juan Manuel Marquez has never given any opponent other than Floyd Mayweather an ounce of respect for troubling him, and some have held it against Marquez, to be sure, but when he gives a disdainful interview wearing nothing but a sombrero, his arrogance and imperiousness are embraced. What’s more, Froch is, as David Scott recently wrote here, more down to earth than you might know. And most certainly, unlike the many beloved lawless rogues of boxing, Froch has lived a life free of nasty assault or drug convictions. Finally: How could you not enjoy such classic comedy quotes from the “Gloves Are Off” segment like “let me guess, it’ll be a left or a right” or “We can all pull about a bit if you want…. Have a little pull and a push?”

He needn’t be anyone’s cup of tea; nobody is required to adore Froch. But if you can’t give him credit for at least top 10 pound-for-pound status, if you can’t see him as a future Hall of Famer, if you can’t see him creeping up the list of all-time great Brits and all-time great super middleweights, your standards are too superficial, too motivated by what your eyes say about Froch’s ungainly style over cold, hard win-loss records. And if it annoys you when he talks, so be it — just consider whether his sins are so much graver than the other fighters you give a pass for behavior that’s just as bad or worst. Maybe, too, Froch’s in-ring performances ought to give him a pass on occasions when he does mouth off a little too grandly.

Corrosive Jerk — Alex McClintock

I was with Tim until at least halfway through his first sentence. I have always reserved my right to dislike Carl Froch, and I intend to exercise it now, in public. Tim is right, it’s time that Froch got his due as a boxer. The guy has beaten everyone they’ve put in front of him (except Andre Ward) and more often than not has done it in highly entertaining fashion. That’s all you want in a boxer, right?

Wrong. I like boxers who don’t fill me with a burning desire to stick kitchen skewers in my ears whenever they talk. I know that on some level I’m being irrational. Froch is nowhere near as awful unlikable as the Adrien Broners and Anthony Mundines of this world. He doesn’t actually do anything bad, like flushing money down toilets or saying that America brought 9/11 on itself, but goddamn it he is just so smug.

I’ve heard of a fighters being mugged, but never before had I seen fighters get smugged until I watched Froch. Froch is weaponised smug. Maybe Groves hardly a saint during the build up to his two fights with the “The Cobra,” but Froch does this before and after every fight. He had to be pressed to shake hands with Groves after the first fight, called Ward a “boring git” after being outclassed by him (great sledge, but still) and has referred to Andre Dirrell as a “Weasel.” He also claims not to bear grudges. Go figure.

Froch’s opinions on Froch (“my granite chin,” “world class,” “the greatest knockout punch of all time”) are perhaps even more infuriating. Oh, and did I mention that he doesn’t rate Muhammad Ali?

Unfortunately, though, Tim probably has the last laugh. He can’t force me to like Froch, but no-one needs to convince me to watch him fight.