In his second piece for Write Cross, the excellent Callum Rudge wonders why it is that Carl Froch continues to divide opinion so much amongst British boxing fans. 

By Callum Rudge

“I haven’t had the recognition I deserve,You can go back to anybody’s career — Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, David Haye, Amir Khan, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Naseem Hamed. My record is better than all of theirs”

Carl Froch

The above quote is from an interview that Carl Froch the 3 time ‘World’ Champion gave to the Evening Standard, published on the 10th July. It’s quite hard to disagree with Carl, his run of fights from 2008 vs. Jean Pascal up to Lucian Bute in May of this year has been very impressive. He hasn’t ducked anybody, but to say he hasn’t the recognition he deserves is untrue. In the build up to each Carl Froch fight pundits and fans alike are queuing up to say that Froch’s run of opponents is unparalleled. Whether it’s on Sky’s magazine show Ringside or in any of the Boxing Magazines, he gets as much praise as anyone. He has been very unlucky with TV companies; after Mick Hennesssy’s deal with ITV ended he was stuck in TV purgatory on subscription channel Primetime. Now with his move to Matchroom and Sky he’s getting more exposure but he’s still clearly not happy.

I don’t know anything about guitars, or guitar based music but I was scrolling through Amazon’s bestselling albums list and one name kept popping up, David Gray. When I clicked on his name I saw a list of albums with one 5 star review after another but I couldn’t for the life of me name one of his songs. I then asked round the office to see if anyone knew what David Gray’s big record was and I only got one answer and when I mentioned the list of 5 star albums the response I got was “Really?”. The Monday after Amir Khan’s shock KO defeat to Danny Garcia a colleague walked in and started talking about it, this lady is a Grandmother and she knows as much about Boxing as I do about guitars but she knew Amir Khan’s name and that he had lost. Carl Froch is the David Gray of Boxing, he is respected by Boxing fans due to a run of high quality fights but his work is largely unknown by the general public. So what has stopped Boxing’s David Gray becoming Robbie Williams?.

Chris Eubank (Senior) was and still is a character; the monocle, the lisp, the flip over the ropes and the pose he would do as his name was being announced got people talking. It made some people want to see him lose, hence the popularity of Nigel Benn who was the complete opposite.. Prince Naseem was very similar to Eubank. Ricky Hatton was the 2 weight world champion who would have a ‘S**t Shirt Party” at his local pub after every fight. People know David Haye as the big punching, loud mouth kid from Bermondsey who slayed the 7 foot Russian Goliath plus he has the respect of boxing fans for Unifying the Cruiserweight division, if anything else. And then we get to Joe Calzaghe.

“I’ve been a big Joe Calzaghe fan over the years but have not been impressed by the way he doesn’t want to fight me”. I think he should fight me really. He has had a couple of really soft voluntary defences rather than fighting me and I’ve got the hump with him over it. Okay, Kessler is a good fight, but he says he wants only big fights now and fighting me would be just that. There would be huge interest in Britain for it”

The quote above was a typical Carl Froch quote from 2007, it was published just before Calzaghe was about to fight future Froch conqueror Mikkel Kessler for the Undisputed World Super Middleweight Championship live on ITV. A week after this fight Carl was scheduled to face a washed up Robin Reid on Sky Sports for the British Title. As a boxing fan I read that and thought “cheeky $#%!, he’s beaten no-one of note and is telling the man at 12 stone that he’s “got the hump” with him”. There was also the scene captured by ITV cameras in the build up to Carl’s fight with Jean Pascal where he phoned Calzaghe on camera and asked him for a fight, to which Joe replied that if the money was right it could happen. I believe Joe said that knowing that Carl wasn’t a money draw and that despite Carl’s views, the fight wouldn’t generate “huge interest”. Joe was already well past him and wasn’t looking back.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather

I think comments like this one and the one at the start of the article have put a lot of boxing fans off him. We still admire his achievements but wish he would show some sense before opening his mouth. I also think that Carl, unlike the fighters he mentions, has failed to capture the public’s imagination because nothing makes him stand out from the crowd. He doesn’t wear a 3-piece suit and drive a lorry or flip over the top rope into the ring. He looks normal, talks normal and acts normal. He’s neither the good guy nor the bad guy so the general public aren’t emotionally invested enough to look out for his fights. Floyd Mayweather, as well as being an exceptional fighter promotes himself as the bad guy and for that reason is the highest paid athlete in the world. Top-level sport, just like music is show business and normal people aren’t on the front pages of the papers.

Just ask David Gray.

You can follow boxing and Tottenham Hotspur fan Callum on Twitter here. If you would like to write for Write Cross you can get in touch by emailing writecross12@gmail.com.

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As the ramifications of Amir Khan’s loss to Danny Garcia are still to be fully understood, have we credited Khan with too much ability since the Olympic star has turned pro?

By George Ogier

When Thierry Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007 many of the club’s fans hoped that Theo Walcott would blossom into a like for like replacement for the Frenchman. Walcott was bestowed with Henry’s no. 14 shirt and it was generally accepted that we were looking at a future superstar of English football.

Five years on and Theo Walcott is indeed a mainstay of the Arsenal side and a regular for his country. However, there is an inescapable feeling that the former Southampton academy star hasn’t lived up to expectations. Perhaps those expectations were too great and Walcott just isn’t good enough to meet them.

In 2010 Chris Waddle claimed that Walcott “has no football brain”. Waddle expanded on his point by saying “I just don’t know if he studies the game, learns the game, or what. He’s at a great club where they play fantastic football week-in, week-out and I’m just surprised he’s never developed his game”.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that Walcott has improved over the last two years I think Chris Waddle had a valid argument. What is interesting though is that it’s possible to take Waddle’s statement and substitute football for boxing. It could then be applied to another young star of British sport making just as much sense. Step forward, Amir Khan.

In the same way that Theo Walcott was expecting to eventually replace Thierry Henry at Arsenal, Amir Khan was destined to be great. His career has overlapped slightly that of Ricky Hatton, the most popular British fighter for years. Many around the sport expected Khan, after his Olympic success to replace Hatton in the hearts of British boxing fans.

As plausible an idea as it might have been originally, it just never happened. Strangely, Khan and Hatton share some of the traits that made Ricky so popular. Khan, like Hatton never takes a backward step, he also appears to be willing to fight anyone. However, that is where the similarities end.

Ricky Hatton was an incredibly accomplished boxer underneath the “ready for war” exterior. As time progresses I am not entirely sure that the same can be said of Khan. When the Bolton fighter was knocked out by Breidis Prescott it led to huge changes in the Khan camp. Many were of the opinion that a knockout like that can happen to anyone.

As Khan rebuilt his career we were treated to the spectacle of his epic contest with Marcos Maidana. Amir appeared to have put the ghost of Prescott to bed in proving that he could take a shot. Nonetheless, lessons needing learning after that fight and they were there for all to see.

The issue of performing enhancing drugs aside, Khan’s showing against Lamont Peterson in December was again full of holes as he suffered his first loss at light welterweight. Once again Amir got pulled into a brawl when he would have been better boxing at range and moving.

Questions have been asked about Amir Khan’s relationship with his trainer, Freddie Roach in the aftermath of Saturday’s Garcia fight. While there can be little doubt that Manny Pacquiao is the main focus of Roach’s attention in the Wildcard gym I think it is unfair to blame Khan’s performances on Roach.

When the ill-fated Khan v. Peterson rematch was still alive Sky’s Johnny Nelson went to interview Freddie Roach who was keen to outline his plans for Khan, “I want him [Khan] to fight more flat-footed. When he’s flat-footed and not bouncing everywhere he sees exactly what’s happening…..when he’s bouncing there’s too much activity to see what the other guy’s doing”.

Roach clearly had a system in place to iron out the deficiencies in Khan’s defence. Indeed, ahead of the Danny Garcia fight Roach made it very clear that he wanted Amir to throw punches in no more than 2s or 3s and then move out of the pocket. It was a strategy designed in part to nullify Garcia’s counters but also to ensure Khan wasn’t hanging around to get hit.

it could have been so different

Amir began Saturday’s fight boxing to plan but perhaps buoyed by the sight of a cut over Garcia’s right eye he began to revert to type. Khan remained in the pocket for too long and began throwing combinations of four and five shots rather than two and three as instructed.

At this point everyone knows how the fight ended but surprisingly the majority of people I have spoken to seem to regard the result as a huge upset. Danny Garcia is an unbeaten world title holder who before Saturday had knocked out fourteen of twenty-three opponents. I thought it was a real pick ’em affair that I expected Khan to perhaps shade. It’s certainly no Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas.

After the Peterson fight I lamented the fact that Khan kept getting dragged into unnecessary wars. Surely a boxer with Amir’s amateur pedigree could learn to box smart and work to his strengths. I have now reached a point where I am not sure that is a viable option.

Freddie Roach put into place a plan to help Amir Khan beat Danny Garcia. After two rounds of success Khan seemed to give the impression of a man who knew better and began to fight the way he has always fought.

Nobody can question the heart of Amir Khan. He rebuilt his career after the Prescott loss. Amir then toughed it out in the ferocious battle with Maidana. Unfortunately both moments of adversity were as a direct result of Khan’s own actions. The same applies to the problems Amir faced in the Peterson fight and again on Saturday against Danny Garcia.

Amir Khan will always be an exciting boxer to watch. His unpredictability means that fans approach his bouts with a real sense of the unknown. Trainers cannot teach their fighters to have courage but bravery is not enough. A refusal to adapt and learn from mistakes will ultimately cost a boxer dearly.

Khan has said that he will be assessing his relationship with Freddie Roach as he plans for the future. Clearly upset with playing second fiddle to Manny Pacquiao, Kahn might seek to change trainers. Many fans and journalists alike have said that this might be for the best. I would suggest that Amir Khan might should look a little closer to home when searching for the root of his problems in the ring.

I’m a big-headed egomaniac at the best of times and during the lead up to David Haye’s fight with Dereck Chisora I have been fortunate enough to be very busy. Rather than swamp you with a series of links in individual tweets and Facebook status updates I thought I’d make one page with everything on.

Firstly I was thrilled to be involved in a one-off special of the Boxing Clever podcast. Host Martin “The Brain” Potter spoke to his old cohort Alex Reid, myself and various other boxing journalists and bloggers. It was fantastic to be involved in and you can listen here or go to the One More Round podcast on iTunes.

I have also blogged about David Haye’s waning popularity for The Mirror and you can read that here.

Finally, I even got my gnarled old face on the telly. I got to ask Frank Warren a few questions on the Sports Tonight Live channel. The video of part of our debate is below.

It remains to be seen whether the fight itself can live up to the enormous hype surrounding it. I shall be watching and I daresay a few of you will too.

By George Ogier

As the old saying goes, never meet your heroes because they’re bound to disappoint. The cliché was at the forefront of my thoughts as I watched Kell Brook beat Carson Jones at the weekend. Barry McGuigan is one of my heroes and whilst I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him he left me feeling rather disappointed on Saturday night.

In what is fast becoming a sea of sycophants McGuigan has been a shining beacon of rationality on Sky Sports’ boxing coverage. Many presenters and commentators on the broadcaster’s boxing team seem contractually obliged to blindly praise British fighters. Conversely, if a boxer is not from these shores and has little or no public profile the same people are quick to dismiss their capabilities.

It is reaching embarrassing levels of ineptitude in and out of the commentary box. Barry McGuigan has been one of the few Sky employees to rise above this parapet of jingoism and actually talk sense. However, it appeared on Saturday night that he is finally accepting the Sky Sports blinkers with five fateful words “Kell Brook is world-class”.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a slight bee in my bonnet about Kell Brook and Matchroom Promotions. Brook has been far too inactive and under-matched throughout his career to date. In spite of this, Eddie Hearn tells us at every opportunity that Kell Brook is a world-class fighter.

Head of Sky Boxing and regular Ringside anchor, Adam Smith recently made moves to ensure that only Matchroom bills appeared on Sky’s domestic coverage of the sport. As a result it would seem that Sky have bought into the world of Hearn’s murky delusions concerning Brook.

Beyond the claims of Kell Brook’s ability, fans were told in no uncertain terms that Brook v Jones was an IBF world title eliminator. Indeed, MC for the Sheffield bill John McDonald announced the victor in the contest “the winner who will challenge for a coveted world title”. Surprisingly, the next day Sky was reporting that Brook now faced a “final eliminator” against Hector Saldivia.

I understand that promoters need to exalt their fighters in order to interest audiences. What I don’t like is Sky’s complicity in toeing the Matchroom party line. Brook is not world-class (yet) and that fight was not a title eliminator. I expect such talk from a boxer’s management team but not from a broadcaster in Smith who clearly loves the sport.

Perhaps I am being unfair on Kell Brook, after all none of this is his fault. He fights the opponents that Eddie Hearn puts in front of him but Brook appears to be buying into his own hype. The young man from Sheffield is a very accomplished boxer, one of the best in Britain in fact. However, in praising Brook to the heavens we’re in danger of harming his career.

Kell Brook has a reputation as a slick operator with excellent speed and heavy hands. Brook might have looked this way in his early career against journeymen opponents but against better fighters all three claims are patently untrue.

Brook lacks the power to keep an experienced and durable boxer off him. He didn’t discourage Matthew Hatton during their fight and he certainly wasn’t worrying Carson Jones on Saturday. The fact that both Hatton and Jones hit Brook, sometimes at will would suggest that his cat-like reflexes are perhaps a myth too.

Kell Brook might well go on to win multiple world titles and dominate the welterweight division. I’d be very happy to see him do so too. Unfortunately though, the people around Kell are telling him that he can run before he has even started walking. Saturday was Brook’s 28th professional contest and it was the first time he has been genuinely tested.

Some might claim that the lack of tests have been more about Brook’s skill than the ability of opponents. I am not entirely sure that I would agree with such an argument. One of the biggest fallacies about Saturday was Hearn’s claim that Carson Jones was a world level adversary for Brook.

Jones may well have been ranked no. 3 by the IBF but he is not in any other top ten. The WBC have the American ranked as low as 31 in the world. Rankings put out by sanctioning bodies are no indicator of ability. After all the WBO have seen fit to rate Frankie Gavin at no. 9 in their welterweight standings. These lists mean virtually nothing.

Looking beyond the nonsense generated by Sky Sports and Eddie Hearn on Saturday, what are we left with? A talented young fighter slowly realising that boxing might well be harder than he once thought. Brook looked lost in his post fight interview, like his aura of invincibility had been shattered. It was an aura built up by the likes of Hearn and Adam Smith and in doing so they have done Kell no favours whatsoever.

By George Ogier

Victor Ortiz ices his broken jaw.

The career progression of a talented young boxer is a tricky path to navigate. The danger of over-matching a promising prospect is at the forefront of any promoter’s mind. Conversely, if a fighter is given a string of easy opponents there is a risk of inflated egos and poorly honed ring craft.

This unfortunate situation was played out in front of a Staples Centre crowd two weeks ago when “Vicious” Victor Ortiz lost to Josesito Lopez. Ortiz failed to come out for the tenth round after suffering a broken jaw.

Victor Ortiz has been criticised and empathised with in equal measures but the answer to one question was in high demand. Had Golden Boy Promotions (GBP), Victor’s managers created a scenario whereby their fighter was under-prepared?

At one point Ortiz was very much GBP’s “next big thing”. When Victor quit against Marcos Maidana in 2009 people began to suspect his mental toughness. This continued after a bizarre stoppage and post match interview in the fight with Floyd Mayweather.

There was a suspicion that in hyping Ortiz to the rafters and then matching him against easy opponents GBP had not prepared their fighter properly. Ortiz just wasn’t ready to deal with the pressure of being in trouble during a big fight. It is important for a boxer’s career progression that their opponents improve fight after fight and Victor Ortiz had never been tested in this way.

As Sheffield’s Kell Brook prepares for his next bout this Saturday it is very easy to draw parallels between his rise and that of Ortiz. In those comparisons it is a logical step to then wonder if Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn is unwittingly setting his man up for a similar fall.

Kell Brook has been lauded by many as the one of the finest British boxers of his generation. Sky Sports have continually trumpeted the idea that Brook is destined to be a world champion. Commentator Nick Halling has even gone as far as to label Brook “world class”.

The is no doubt whatsoever that Kell Brook is a talented boxer. However, he has yet to be tested by anyone at the elite level of world welterweights. The biggest name on Brook’s record so far is Matthew Hatton, a durable European level fighter at best.

Firstly, under the management of Frank Warren and now with Hearn, Brook has been inactive and under-matched at almost every turn. There is a chance that Kell could challenge for a world title but at this point he woefully prepared to do so.

Brook and Jones.

Brook’s latest opponent, Carson Jones is a case in both points. Jones is almost four months younger than Kell Brook but comparing their career statistics you would never know. Jones has fought forty-six times to Brook’s twenty-seven. Jones has also boxed nearly twice as many rounds as Kell, 237 to 120. It is worth noting too that Carson Jones made his professional debut one month after Brook.

Some observers think this fight will be a real test of Kell Brook’s abilities but I am not entirely convinced by this claim. Eddie Hearn has been quick to inform the press and fans alike that Jones is an elite fighter. The American is ranked no. 3 in the world by the IBF but that is where his international recognition begins and ends.

Not ranked in the top 10 by any other sanctioning body, Jones has an even poorer record in terms of opponents than Brook. The man from Oklahoma appears to be durable enough and would seem to have a reasonable punch with twenty-four stoppages. There is however an inescapable feeling that we will learn very little about Brook from this contest.

Unfortunately for Kell, he exists in the insular bubble that is British boxing. The scene in the UK is thriving enough that our own fighters rarely feel the need to test themselves abroad. The media in the UK are too quick to proclaim British boxers as “world level” operators without ever having proof.

This parochial attitude from British promoters means that fighters from these shores often have virtually no profile outside Great Britain. Eventually this will prove problematic for Kell Brook. The current welterweight champions will be aware of the Sheffield fighter but he is an unknown quantity at this stage.

The upshot of this mystery surrounding Brook means he is unlikely to get a title shot any time soon. No champion will want to fight Kell as the situation stands. He is too good to be considered as an opponent in a “ticking over” contest. The other side of this coin means that Brook is not enough of a “name” to warrant a PPV show on a big network like HBO. This creates little financial incentive to box him.

Until Kell Brook fights a genuine world title contender he is very much a member of the “who needs him?” club. He is too talented for a champion to take a risk on but he is yet to beat anyone of the quality that demands he gets a title shot. Brook is at the stage of his career where he needs to be noticed. He needs to bang on the collective doors of world title holders. Thanks to Eddie Hearn, Brook hasn’t even pulled into the driveway yet.

By George Ogier

Kevin Mitchell

Yesterday saw confirmation of a fight that fans have been expecting for a while. On September 22nd Coatbridge’s Ricky Burns will defend his WBO lightweight title against Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell in Glasgow.

There have been many dates mooted for this showdown, most notably on the undercard of David Haye v Dereck Chisora at Upton park on July 14th. Thankfully though a fight of this magnitude is getting the headline billing it deserves. As one writer pointed out yesterday it’s the most significant contest between two British fighters for a long time.

Unsurprisingly the contest has already split observers when it comes to the subject of the eventual winner. What has already surfaced though is a pleasing mutual respect between Mitchell and Burns with Kevin taking to Twitter to explain that the fight is just business.

Kevin Mitchell on Twitter

The predictions for September are already coming thick and fast and one thing is clear, this really is a pick ’em contest. Ricky Burns is finally getting the respect that his career deserves. He was written off before fights against Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis. On both occasions he triumphed convincingly.

Kevin Mitchell on the other hand is more of an enigma. He is clearly in possession of a mighty talent but problems outside the ring have often derailed his career. You could make a convincing argument that with his ability Kevin Mitchell ought to be in Ricky Burns’ position of world champion.

Both men have recently overcome quality fighters in what many have called their defining performances. Burns beat Katsidis on a night when many thought he would simply get out muscled. Kevin Mitchell knocked out John Murray in a fight of the year contender last summer when again plenty thought the Mancunian would be too strong.

Ricky Burns

However, as impressive as those wins were neither victory puts that Burns and Mitchell at the very top of the boxing tree just yet. Repeated heavy losses mean that Michael Katsidis seems to be a shadow of his former self. John Murray has since proven to have the defensive nous of a fairground test-your-strength punch bag. Both Katsidis and Murray have bags of heart but neither tested Mitchell and Burns technically. September 22nd represents the toughest test yet for both boxers.

As it stands I would make Ricky Burns the favourite. He has fought at a higher level than Kevin Mitchell and has consistently proved the doubters wrong. Mitchell’s personal issues cannot be ignored in the lead up to this fight either. We saw how they affected him when he lost to Michael Katsidis in 2010. All signs are that Kevin is happy with life right now and this could prove problematic for Burns.

I genuinely believe that Kevin Mitchell is one of the most talented British boxers of his generation. If he trains right and remains focused then he can beat Burns, and by a surprising margin. That said, I claimed that Ricky had no chance against either Michael Katsidis or Roman Martinez and look how those fights turned out. I can’t wait!

Floyd “Money” Mayweather

By George Ogier

In the absence of a thriving heavyweight scene boxing fans and the media alike are keen to anoint a weight class as the sport’s “glamour” division. The recent dominance of both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have led many to suggest that the 147lb stars of welterweight boxing are today’s kings but is that reputation deserved?

There can be little doubt that Mayweather and Pacquiao are the pre-eminent fighters of this generation. Both men have risen through the weights and now, more often than not fight around the 147lb mark. They are responsible for some of the biggest PPV figures of recent years and all this without ever facing each other. Does the mere existence of both men mean that the welterweight division is the most exciting?

The events of the past few weeks have served to turn the welterweight boxing on its head. Pacquiao lost a shocking decision to Tim Bradley, Randall Bailey knocked out Mike Jones and Josesito Lopez forced Victor Ortiz to quit on his stool with a broken jaw. Whatever you think of the judges from Pacquiao- Bradley, the division has been front and centre in terms of news coverage.

It is only really the depressing emergence of rampant PED use within the sport that has taken the shine off some enthralling fights of late. Suspicion still surrounds Julio Cesar Chavez Jr after his victory over Andy Lee. There have also been positive drug tests for the likes of Antonio Tarver, Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson.

Beyond the thrill of watching the enormous talents of Pacquiao and Mayweather there is a generation of more than capable talent at 147lb. Fans were treated to a Rocky-style storyline as Lopez met Ortiz on Saturday. Paulie Malignaggi fought in Ukraine and captured the WBA title. Here in Britain we have the mercurial Kell Brook and the very real prospect of Bolton’s Amir Khan moving up from light welterweight.

Therein lies the strength of the welterweight division. It isn’t so much about Pacquiao and Mayweather and more about what is bubbling just under the surface. Yes, everyone wants to dine at the top table in terms of fighting the two figureheads but the battle to get that honour is equally compelling.

The race to win a payday against Pacquiao and Mayweather provides great sporting drama. However, the inability of Floyd and Manny to actually fight rather than just snipe through the media is a problem. It has created a situation whereby there is little for other fighters to aim at in becoming the best. In many other weight classes there are universally accepted “top dogs”. To get to the title you have to beat the man who beat the man.

Andre Ward

Wladimir Klitschko is head and shoulders (and probably chest too) above all other heavyweights. Andre Ward has proven that he is the premier super middleweight fighter on the planet. Just below Ward you’ll be hard pushed to find anyone that doesn’t believe Sergio Martinez to currently be the world’s greatest middleweight.

At 147lbs there just isn’t that pinnacle, a summit of human endeavour. If you beat Floyd or Manny (fairly) then you are merely part of the alphabet soup of titles. It has become a twin peaks of achievement and like David Lynch’s masterpiece it can be hard keep track of what is happening.

Both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are destined to be remembered as all time greats. Nonetheless, that undeniable fact should not mask an addition to both men’s legacies. By not meeting in the ring they are robbing a new generation of fighters the chance to call themselves the undisputed champion.

In terms of talent and sheer popularity the welterweight scene is the most exciting at the moment. However, individual contests do not shape the whole boxing story. Fans want to know who is the best, they want to see one man rise above all others to become champion. The 147lb scene is currently throwing up some fantastic contests. Sadly, the confusion at the top of a very congested pile is diluting many people’s enjoyment of a golden era.