CARL FROCH EXCLUSIVE: Only one man who can knock me out... my anaesthetist!
By Jeff Powell - dailymail.co.uk
Carl Froch forgets the details of his last street fight but he would be more than happy to offer George Groves outside the Manchester Arena this Saturday night.
‘Sometimes big boxing matches should take place on the cobbles,’ so says the world super-middleweight champion.
‘That’s really where Mikkel Kessler and me ought to have sorted it out,’ says Froch in reference to the recent, brutal re-match between these two natural-born fighters at London’s 02 Arena where he avenged preceding defeat in Denmark.
Hard as nails: World super middleweight champion Carl Froch's greatest strength is his toughness
And Carl and Mikkel are friends.
Not so Froch and Groves.
‘George can have it wherever he wants,’ says Froch. ‘But he doesn’t really want it at all. He doesn’t love the sport, not like me. He doesn’t love fighting, not like me. He’d happily not fight at all and that’s definitely not like me.’
Froch’s mind goes back to his pre-boxing days earning a hard living in the bars and night-clubs of Nottingham: ‘If someone didn’t want to leave, I persuaded them. If some big oik had too much and shouldn’t be served another drink, I told him.
Game challenger: The talented George Groves is clearly very confident about his chances of defeating Froch
‘Usually, for some reason, they listened. But if it looked like getting rough my right leg would start twitching and I’d have this urge to hit ‘em in the face.’
Groves hopes Froch will feel an irresistible need to scratch that primitive itch on Saturday. That’s why he has been ridiculing and insulting the fellow Brit he is about to challenge for IBF and WBA belts. To make him so annoyed he loses his temper on the night – and with it the fight.
Froch coldly insists Groves will be deeply disappointed, on that score and every other: ‘I’m past the age of taking anger into the ring. I will hit him in the face. Often. But the beating I give him will be controlled. He would like me to hate him but I don’t. Hate is too strong a word, although I don’t particularly like him.’
Andre Ward, the WBA super-champion who is the only boxer other than Kessler to have beaten Froch in his 33-fight professional career, has questioned the Englishman’s reputation as a tough guy.
Froch shrugs and smiles: ‘If he’s got the guts to come to England he can find out the truth. In the ring or in the street.’
He suspects that behind all the bravura Groves is getting the real message.
‘The closer it gets to fight night,’ says Froch, ‘the more George will be hating himself. Hating himself for getting himself into this predicament,
‘Make no mistake, the days and hours before going into the ring can be stressful for any boxer. The bigger and tougher the fight the greater stress, But if a boxer knows he’s stepping out of his league it’s even worse. George is in that position and I doubt if he’s sleeping much now.
‘He knows what’s coming. He had a taste of it in sparring.’
Groves makes light of having been knocked down – possibly out – by his rival but Froch says: ‘Sparring is not as tough as a fight. George came into the gym eager to give it a real go, to prove something. Younger fighters do that. As soon as we started I knew I had to take it a bit easy on him, even with the thicker gloves. But once I upped the pace a little and let the punches flow I had him over.
‘Imagine what’s going to happen with the small gloves and really hurtful blows.’
Groves has lost his trainer, Adam Booth, as well as tranches of support outside his native West London. Froch says: ‘The cocky, arrogant, childish, way he’s been behaving has turned off lots of his own fans.’
Even the calendar is against Saint George.
This is the Chinese Year of the Snake and that holds special significance for Froch. He was born under that sign in 1977 and has prospered on every subsequent turn of that 12-year cycle. Hence his nickname, The Cobra.
In 1989 he won his first fight as a junior amateur. In 2001 he turned professional, embarking on his journey towards becoming a three-time world champion.
Now, in 2013, he has settled his score with Kessler in a titanic battle, his model girlfriend Rachael has given birth to their second child, he is expanding his business from renovating old rental properties in Nottingham to constructing new houses. And he is about to bank another Sky pay-per-view fortune from what he expects to be an easier night’s work against Groves.
‘I couldn’t be happier in my life and in my work,’ he says. ‘And this is not the time for Groves to be fighting me. It’s too early for him. He’s not been in the ring with anyone who could possibly have prepared him for this huge step up in class. And this is my year.’
Even though Groves, at 25, keeps making the point that he is 11 years the younger?
Another grin, as Froch says: ‘Whether he can believe it or not, I feel even better. I’ve got all the experience of 10 straight world title fights yet I’m stronger than ever. I check my timings on runs, a lot of them uphill, and I’m quicker than before the Kessler fight. All my gym records show I’m even fitter. I threw a thousand punches against Kessler and I’m capable of more against Groves – although it’s doubtful he’ll stay standing long enough to let me do it.’
Groves has acquired a reputation as a big puncher but Froch has a proven chin of iron and is fond of reciting this, his favourite quote of this week: ‘The only person in the world who could knock me out is my anaesthetist.’
A key element of Froch’s sparring has been against fellow Englishman Darren Barker, who defends his world middleweight title against Felix Sturm in Germany next month.
‘That’s been good for sharpness and speed,’ says Froch, in rebuttal of some predictions that he might struggle against Groves’ mobility.
There is evidence of that quickness in his ring work with Rob McCracken, the trainer of both Froch and Britain’s successful Olympic team.
There is intense focus at the sports institute in Sheffield where the more intense technical preparations have been taking place. A whole variety of thunderous combinations are delivered with lightning hand speed.
How does Froch keep doing it. At 36 and with at least a couple of years and three or four more big fights to come here and in America.’
We discuss that over supper. He chooses a Japanese restaurant and after signing a queue of autographs settles down to study the menu in micro-biotic detail.
He asks the chef for a precise breakdown of the ingredients and purity of the food before settling on a dish recommended as the healthiest in the city.
This is a man who never lets his weight rise more than three or four pounds above the 12 stone super-middleweight limit, not even between fights. A man who never drinks. A man who mostly lives quietly at home with his family. A man whose idea of a late night is climbing through the ropes at around 10.30pm.
‘Look at Bernard Hopkins,’ he says. ‘He’s nearly 50 and still a world champion. The game has changed. Modern training techniques, diet, medicine and so on are producing longevity in boxers... like me.’
What doesn’t change – not in true world champions – is that basic instinct for fighting.
Sky might be wise to position additional cameras in the alleyway outside the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester on Saturday night.
Just in case.
Froch v Groves is live on Saturday night on Sky Sports Box Office, at £14.95 pay-per-view.
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