• Steve Bunce

Savage? You're too smart for that, Carl

Steve Bunce February 5, 2013
Carl Froch is a smarter boxer now than he was three years ago - but he must not be drawn into a brawl © PA Photos

We have been spoilt here in Britain over the last 25 years with some brilliant fights, real grudge matches and serious showdowns that have sold out venues across the country. Carl Froch's second shot at Mikkel Kessler at The O2 on May 25 is right up there with the best of them.

I was at the first fight in Herning, near Legoland, in Denmark in 2010. That was more of a war than a fight, and I thought Kessler had won it by a round or two. But it was tight, and I can see why Carl might have thought he had done enough. He admits that the loss, the first of his professional career, left him hurt. "When my head hits the pillow on a night I still think about the defeat to Mikkel," he told the press after announcing the fight on Monday. And, trust me, he means every night!

Pride may well have been to blame for that 2010 defeat. I think Carl looked at his mate Mikkel, saw that he had lost to Andre Ward and Joe Calzaghe and thought, 'he's a good fighter, he's a nice guy, but he's going to be okay for me'.

Of course, Kessler raised his game to produce the performance of his life and won. There wasn't a lot in it, and Carl was left so disappointed - not angry, disappointed - because he knew he had been sucked into a brawl. I think Robert McCracken in his corner also knew what had happened - and they could, and should, have been smarter.

"They described our first fight as brutal," said Carl on Monday, "and if I was to forecast one word that will probably describe our rematch, then it will likely be savage."

That's fine for the headline writers, but Carl will know that it's brains, not brawn, that will see him past Kessler this time. That's not to say it won't be a great fight - the pair of them could play tiddlywinks while eating Corn Flakes and it would be brilliant to watch! I just don't think promises of it being more savage than the first fight is good for Froch.

Carl knows that too. He learnt from the Kessler defeat, and now has a boxing brain to rival the best in the business. He ventured back to Europe as part of the Super Six, fighting Arthur Abraham - a terrific boxer - in Finland. Carl won all 12 rounds, handing Abraham a proper old-school lesson in ring craft, and he did it by using his brain and not getting involved in a street fight. If he'd have boxed Kessler like that, using his brain rather than his heart and his guts, he would have won clearly.

So why the savage talk? That's not how Carl will gain his revenge. He needed to box clever against Abraham: he did. Then, when he needed to brawl against Lucien Bute last May, to smash him to bits quickly to avoid getting drawn into a dangerous slug-fest, he did that too.

Now as he prepares to get back in the ring with Kessler, I think we need to see a performance somewhere between those two. That's the Froch we've seen emerge over the past three years, the one who beat Jean Pascal to win the world title - a guy that's aggressive, likes to get involved, but first and foremost can box and use his brain.

Mikkel Kessler enjoyed home town advantage in Denmark in 2010, but Carl Froch finds himself on native soil this time around © Getty Images

And while London is not his native Nottingham, it does represent home soil. If there was an arena in Nottingham with a roof and room for 20,000 paying punters, the fight would be there in a nanosecond. But this is an expensive fight - Sky are returning to pay-per-view after a two-year break to make it happen. They need a big, rowdy crowd, and the hordes who snapped up the tickets at The O2 will make that happen. The fight sold out in under four hours!

The idea that Carl has the edge because he is boxing at home, that's a valid argument. In 50-50, hard fights, having that crowd and having the usual creature comforts are naturally beneficial. And Carl's earned the right, having done his time on the road. He's fought three world title fights in America, another in Herning a.k.a. the Middle of Nowhere, and in Finland.

Saying that, Denmark's not far away. It's not a monstrous upheaval for Kessler, but at the same time he's got to get on a plane, get hold of some foreign currency and eat food that he wouldn't necessarily eat. It's not bad, but it's obviously advantageous if you're a home fighter.

Still with me? Hungry for more? Good - because Buncey's Boxing Podcast - the best boxing podcast in the UK - is a click away. In this week's episode Matt Macklin outlines his plans for 2013 and Anthony Ogogo talks about fighting on the Floyd Mayweather undercard in May

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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.