By George Ogier
Sport has the capacity to distort our tolerance of the socially acceptable. We find ourselves cheering for people who on a normal day we might cross the street to avoid. The recently highlighted behaviour of Luis Suarez is a case in point.
Suarez is an outrageously gifted footballer who was seen to break written and unwritten codes of moral and social conduct. In spite of this people rushed to his defence, why? Mainly because he is good at a sport we love and that can often warp our judgement.
I try very hard to look beyond the personality of a sporting star when assessing their abilities but it can be difficult. I have never been a particularly ardent fan of Carl Froch and more often than not it is as a result of his behaviour outside the ring.
Froch is in no way a bad role model. Never in trouble with the authorities. an apparent family man with a cast iron will to succeed. My issue lies with the fact that every achievement in Carl’s career is overshadowed by a desire for legitimacy. That desire tends to manifest itself in one name, Joe Calzaghe.
I, like many others last weekend expected Carl Froch to be beaten comfortably by Lucian Bute. Unless you’ve recently taken a holiday to the Easter Islands you know how that turned out. Froch destroyed Bute inside five rounds in what many feel was the defining fight of Carl’s career.
For once this would be a chance for anti-Froch cynics like myself to heap praise on the Nottingham man. Rightly so, too. Carl fought in a fashion that I wasn’t convinced he could produce at the elite level. Fast, strong and in complete control. Bute had no answer to the machine that stood in the opposite corner of the ring that night.
I had suggested before the fight that Carl’s whirlwind tour of world title fights might not have been as prestigious as he would have us believe. Froch had made hard work of the Jean Pascal fight with loose defence. Jermain Taylor was a decent conditioning trainer away from a comprehensive points win against Carl. Arthur Abraham is a blown up middleweight and Glen Johnson an old man who hadn’t fought at 168lbs since beating Toks Owoh in 2000.
All of those criticisms were blown out of the water at the weekend and for once we just had to tip our hats to Froch. Yet, less than 72 hours after the fight, rather than basking in the glory of a victory few thought possible Carl was up to his old tricks.
Froch appeared in an interview with BBC’s 5 Live and once again the elephant in the room was Joe Calzaghe;
“I’ll go down in the history books and I’ll be remembered forever and ever unlike other fighters, and I’m not going to mention any names, who have got undefeated records or retire undefeated and you say to yourself ‘Who did he box? He didn’t box him, he swerved him, he boxed him when he was past his best’”.
Calzaghe has been an unhealthy obsession for Carl Froch ever since Froch was the British super middleweight champion in 2004. Even now, after all his personal success Carl appears hellbent on being defined by how his achievements match up against Joe’s. It is all rather unedifying and unbecoming of the world-class sportsman that Froch clearly is.
It would be unfair to heap complete responsibility for this state of affairs on Carl. Throughout his career he has been almost goaded by reporters into taking about Calzaghe. However, rather than simply ignoring the issue Froch insists on labouring the point to a new level of awkwardness.
Along with Calzaghe, the name of Jeff Lacy has appeared a lot amongst the fallout from the Lucian Bute contest. Many still see the victory over Lacy as Calzaghe’s defining performance and predictably there are people, myself included that have drawn a comparison between the two fights. Carl himself was quick to wade in to the Lacy debate;
“I’m not taking anything away from Joe Calzaghe but Jeff Lacy was massively overrated. Jermain Taylor used Lacy as a warm up fight before fighting me and Taylor didn’t see the final bell in my fight.”
Carl Froch’s version of events may be true but as with a lot of his rhetoric they don’t tell the whole story. Joe Calzaghe beat Lacy so comprehensively that the American was never the same fighter after that. The Jeff Lacy that entered the ring against Jermain Taylor was a very different man from the one that faced Joe Calzaghe two years earlier.
As Elton John once said, it’s a sad, sad situation. Carl Froch is an immensely talented boxer. Heart in abundance and a chin that wouldn’t be out-of-place on Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately it is his fixation with Calzaghe that is poisoning many fans’ opinions. Rather than be proud of his achievements Carl is damaging his legacy by forcing comparisons that will almost always end unfavourably for him.
I had hoped to write about the positive side of Carl Froch, the boxer after his amazing display on Saturday. However, Carl Froch, the man only has himself to blame for the fact that it has become virtually impossible to do so.
You can listen to the full Carl Froch 5 Live interview here.