Who’s Froch? The +115 dog of boxing

Apr 21, 2009 5:03 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

We’ll get around to saluting Oscar de la Hoya in a couple of weeks, but the immediate topic at hand is Carl Froch.

Or, as Lou DiBella, said, "Who the froch is Froch?"

DiBella is the promoter of Jermain Taylor, the former middleweight champion who challenges Froch (pronounced FroCH as in chocolate) Saturday in what figures to be the highlight of a busy weekend.

DiBella, of course, was just being flippant. He knows that despite his guy being a slight favorite (-135 at M Resort) at Foxwoods in Connecticut, the fighter from Nottingham is a very live underdog. The Cobra is undefeated in 24 fights with 19 knockouts. His last win was a 12-round thriller against 21-0 Jean Pascal of Canada for the WBC supermiddleweight title that Joe Calzaghe had vacated.

It is one of the reasons Froch is a very angry young man. Well, not so young. He’s 31, but for the last several years has been fighting in the considerable shadows of Calzaghe, who retired undefeated and went home to Wales, ignoring Froch’s desperate pleas for a showdown.

Froch said it wasn’t the titles, or money, that he wanted. Instead, he "wanted to prove that I could knock him out in style and beat him easily." In his first title defense, Froch said he’d fight Kelly Pavlik over here and Mikkel Kessler in Copenhagen. He’s also teed off that no British network, so far, has picked up the tab to televise this compelling fight back home.

We can thank Showtime for the availability. Froch, it is reported (especially by him), can punch. Taylor doesn’t have the greatest chin (see Kelly Pavlik I), which makes the price on him seem a bit dangerous. Taylor’s 28-2-1 record saw both losses to Pavlik and an undeserved draw with Winky Wright.

There were also a bunch of questionable victories, like two over Bernard Hopkins and one over Cory Spinks. Taylor has 17 knockouts, but has not stopped anyone in more than five years.

In his last start, he did pretty much what he wanted against the faded Jeff Lacy, but still couldn’t put his Olympic teammate away. Froch has not fought anyone remotely on the class of Hopkins, Wright, Pavlik, Spinks et al. But if his confidence is not simply bravura, he should be a worthy investment.

De la Hoya’s inevitable retirement coincides with the sport he helped carry going into a busy weekend, ironically with no bouts promoted by his Golden Boy Promotions. On Friday, Don King comes out of the hairwork and promotes another Showtime show in St. Louis, featuring crosstown rivals Cory Spinks and DiBella’s Deandre Latti in a bout for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title.

No, I don’t know why it’s vacant, nor do I care, because this is as interesting a fight as Spinks can probably make.

It is a duel of southpaws who have been idle for a while. Latimore, 23 years old, has been off for 10 months; Spinks, still only 31, has been off for 13. Leon’s kid is coming off two losses, but both were by split decisions – to Verno Phillips and Jermain Taylor.

Latimore will be facing "one of my idols growing up" and until he has someone on his 19-1 record that even approximates the class of Spinks, he should be considered the underdog, though a live one.

On Saturday night in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, in another duel of southpaws, Bob Arum has one of his little pay-per-view cards and it’s worth it just to see Juan Manuel Lopez. He’s the spectacular junior featherweight who, in his three world title fights, has three first-round KO’s starting with winning the title by blowout of Daniel Ponce de Leon.

The 25-year-old will put his 24-0 record (22 KO), on the line against still dangerous Gerry Penalosa. The Filipino, abandoning the bantamweight title he won by knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez a couple of years ago to move up four pounds, is now 36 and should be able to get out of the opening round. It is difficult to imagine him scoring a major upset here.

Meanwhile, in Germany, as a reminder to de la Hoya fans, Felix Sturm defends whatever alphabet middleweight title he now has against the seemingly outclassed Koji Sato. Sturm, of course, was robbed in the eyes of many, except the judges, against de la Hoya. You win some, you lose some, but it’s great to see at the end of the day a top guy go out wealthy and healthy.