Hey Joe: Is Carl Froch Poisoning His Own Legacy?

Posted: May 30, 2012 in George Ogier

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

  1. Padsky says:

    If blogs are meant to drive debate by starting trenchant opinions, then I suspect that this one will do so.

    I’m not as deeply involved in boxing as the author, or many of the readers on this site, but This judgement to me feels slightly harsh.

    I’ve always found Froch to be a charismatic and fundamentally decent seeming British working class bloke that happens to be one of the most talented boxers of his generation, on a global standard.

    Clearly there is an issue with Calzaghe, but for me it takes two to tango, and my gut feeling is that JC could have been more generous in his views on Froch post his retirement; in just the same way as Froch should admit that the Lacey fight was one of the most impressive wins by a Brit at world level,

    There really aren’t many top level boxers that don’t have a nasty streak close to the surface. Even the most seemingly gentlemanly guys have that ruthless or arrogant streak, or the itch that they can’t scratch.

    Kahn, mayweather, Eubank, Benn, all of them compelling boxers, all of them not necessarily the most cuddly human beings at all times – not to mention Ali’s well known nasty streak and Ray Leonard’s issues with the Colombian marching powder and an appetite for the opposite sex that was worthy of an Olympian.

    Calzaghe was the same. Yes, he was charismatic, yes he was a great fighter, but he could also be extremely snotty if he so chose, especially when asked about why there are so many wins on his unbeaten record that weren’t exactly of the elite level Calzaghe belonged at.

    So what is it that has really got under your skin George? You get far closer to the boxers than most of your readers do. Is it a gut feeling that there’s something there we aren’t seeing? I have to admit that there is something about Froch that is slightly more overtly menacing than quite a few fighters – something that I’ve heard mentioned about David Haye; that he really quite likes beating other guys up. Having said that, he doesn’t seem to take it to the extremes that Haye did / does / will do.

    Yours, confused, @padsky

    • georgeogier says:

      My issue with with Froch is that Calzaghe has been a constant thread throughout Carl’s pro career. When Joe was winning world titles and Carl was at the York Hall fighting for the Commonwealth strap he was calling Joe out.

      I can understand the early days of back and forth between the two. It was a way to get Carl noticed. Now, at the peak of his career after just destroying one of the best super middleweights on the planet Froch still wants to talk about Joe. It’s plain weird.

      In November Calzaghe will have been retired for FOUR years. When Joe retired Froch wasn’t even a world champion. He has achieved everything on a world scale after Joe quit the sport. Froch is an astounding talent but the parts of his career that have most been in the public eye have been blighted by his barbs at a man who hasn’t fought during that time.

      It’s like the current Barcelona team griping about the achievements of Sacchi’s AC Milan. Utterly pointless. Carl Froch should be basking in the glow of an electric performance on the biggest stage and he’s scrabbling around looking for mud to sling at Calzaghe.

      Perhaps it’s an anger borne out of never being the HUGE star Joe was. People just don’t seem to care about Froch in the same way. Under Mick Hennessey Carl fought at prime time Saturday night on ITV and the viewing figures were awful. This last fight took place in an Arena that holds 9000. Kell Brook could double that and he’s not even a world title holder. Maybe Carl doesn’t think he gets the respect he deserves. He’s unlikely to get it by criticising Calzaghe.

      • Padsky says:

        I find it surprising that this has been such an issue for you, but then I’m not a boxing journalist that has heard the rants first hand a million times and is therefore bored and frustrated with the situation to the point that you’ve written a blog not about the fight, or where Froch goes next, but the chip on his shoulder and how much it annoys you,

        I should also admit that whilst I loved watching him fight on the few occaisions he was on terrestrial TV, I never warmed to Calaghe the way i did the great British Super
        Mids of the 90s. Although it’s hard to get any sort of genuine understanding of a man when all you see are 5 min interviews after a 12 rounder, or PR fluff; and what has happened since his retirement isn’t particularly edifying, but I never felt I wanted Calzaghe to win for any reason other than he’s British,

        Actually, for reasons that I can’t properly define, I warm to Froch far more that Calzaghe. I’m not saying this is logical, but there it is.

      • georgeogier says:

        It is worth pointing out that I was never a huge Calzaghe fan either, for many of the reasons Froch pointed out. I suppose I just feel he’s diluting his own success by continuing this daft war of words when he’s don’e enough to not have to justify his existence in relation to other boxers.

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