Photos by Sumio Yamada
CARL FROCH vs GLEN JOHNSON
Never has a British fighter had a run of such difficult contests as Carl Froch, who meets ageless Glen Johnson on Saturday in the semifinal of Showtime’s Super Six tournament; Froch will also be defending his WBC 168-pound belt.
Froch has faced former, future or current world champions and beaten four of them in his last five bouts, with three of these fights taking place outside the UK.
It’s once more into the firing line as Froch takes on Johnson, the former light-heavyweight champion who looked as strong as he has ever done when knocking out Allan Green in his last fight, a bout that marked Johnson’s entry into the Showtime tournament and was his first bout at a weight below 175 pounds in more than a decade.
Old-time British fighters consistently fought tough fights but usually there was a breather in between, a fight that wasn’t quite as demanding. Froch, though, has boxed Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham in consecutive contests and, while he lost to Kessler, it was the Danish boxer who suffered the greater damage, subsequently dropping out of Super Six (officially due to an eye injury).
Now Froch, after appearing in Connecticut, Denmark and Finland in three of his last four fights is on the road again, this time boxing at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, and although the betting favourite he faces a durable, capable and cagey old pro in the Jamaican-born, Miami-based Johnson who, at the age of 42 remains a formidable assignment.
The big question mark hanging over Johnson was whether he could fight well at 168 — he gave the answer by grinding down Allan Green in eight rounds although surprisingly two judges had him trailing on points.
Froch is expected to win, but Johnson is one of those fighters who can never be underestimated. Not only this, his handlers believe he has taken on a new lease of life as a 168-pounder, and he clearly relishes being part of the tournament and getting another title fight.
“It’s a great position for Glen to be in,” Johnson’s trainer, Orlando Cuellar, said over the phone from Miami. “It’s just another fight we’re supposed to lose, and Glen’s going to be well prepared to do whatever he needs to do and make whatever necessary adjustments he needs to make in the fight. We’re just happy to have this opportunity and we’re very optimistic about the outcome and we welcome the challenge.
“I think Froch is a decent fighter, he’s beaten a lot of good fighters, but he’s never faced the likes of Glen Johnson or what Glen brings. Glen brings a good defence and a lot of pressure and plays a lot of head games in there, and Froch really should be no problem for Glen. It’s going to be an easier fight than a lot of people think, based on the styles. We’re not taking [Froch] lightly, but he’s going to have a rough night, a difficult night.”
“Getting down to 168 pounds really made me feel good,” Johnson said over the phone from Miami, “and I’m really excited about coming down to this weight class.
“I believe that I’m a natural super middleweight. If you look back on my career, I started as a middleweight and kind of worked my way up. I jumped into the light-heavyweight division because opportunities came up there. I’m a small light-heavyweight [but] I’m a more natural super middleweight.
“Froch is a good fighter, he’s a solid guy, very strong, and I look on him as a serious fighter. He’s tall and he knows how to use his range. We don’t know whether he’s going to box or whether he wants to fight with us, so we’re going to be prepared for both things.
“I might make adjustments, it all depends if it’s needed. I’m not going to change from doing what I do, but at the same time I’m not going to be bone-headed about the way I go about my work. I’m going to be the smartest Glen Johnson that I can put in the ring. I fight with my brain more than I fight with anything else, and I will make it up as I go. I feel real, real good right now.”
Froch, well aware of Johnson’s toughness and tenacity, is ready for a 12-round fight. “I’ll be trying as best as I can to stick to the game plan like I did with Arthur Abraham, a sensible fight, a sensible win, no wounds, no chinks in my armour, come out unscathed,” he told me when we chatted in Las Vegas last month, “but if the opportunity presents itself I will put together a nice little, hard flurry and see if I can become the second man to stop him, like [Bernard] Hopkins. He’s not been in with a strong super middleweight — Green was weight-drained at super middleweight — so he’s not felt the full force of a fully fledged, strong super middleweight.”
Since that conversation Froch has moved his training base to New York to get accustomed to the time change from Europe. “I’m just feeling really, really fit and like I did when I fought Arthur Abraham,” Froch told a telephone conference call last week. “Never mind 12 rounds, I can go 25 rounds right now. That’s how great I feel. I’m looking forward to this fight and I’m looking forward to putting a show on.”
There was a flutter of concern when Froch needed to attend a hospital on Thursday to have an ear problem attended to, but it seemed to be a minor matter although not the sort of thing a backer of the British boxer wants to hear two days out from the fight.
Both men looked in fine trim at the weigh-in, with Johnson surprisingly light at 166.5, and I think we have the potential for a memorable fight.
As always, Johnson is going to press forward behind his stonewall defence and try to push Froch back, outwork him and break him down. This has long been Johnson’s style, and it has served him well, but he also brings craftiness and subtlety to his method of fighting. Johnson will sometimes use the jab to surprise his opponent, for instance. When he gets inside he mixes up his punches very well to head and body so that the other man isn’t quite sure where the next one is coming from. Johnson might throw a few slow punches and then open up with a speedy series of shots. So, Johnson is all the while putting mental as well as physical pressure on his opponents.
The Abraham fight reminded us, though, that Froch has excellent boxing skills. I think that the big concern for Froch supporters in that fight was that Nottingham’s “Cobra” would get into a toe-to-toe type of fight with the heavy handed Abraham and take too many punches. This never looked like happening. Froch boxed with an iron discipline and never let Abraham get into the fight.
While realising that Johnson isn’t Abraham, and won’t stand back and allow himself to be outclassed, if Froch boxes this sort of fight on Saturday it is difficult to see how Johnson can beat him. Froch is going to have to fight, that’s guaranteed, because no one has an easy night with Gentleman Glen, but, for me, the British boxer just seems to have too much ammunition and too much talent for the admirable veteran he will be facing.
Allan Green could hit Johnson but didn’t have the firing power to keep him off. Froch, though, hits hard enough to hurt Johnson and slow him down. Much as I respect Johnson and like everyone around him, I’m going to have to go with the younger, in-form Froch to win, and I think he can do so in impressive fashion.
Subscribers’ previews: Chavez Jr. vs Zbik; Kessler vs Bouadla; Rees vs Murray; Erdei vs Mitchell; Igarashi vs Yoshida and more. Note: I am emailing previews to subscribers due to a site issue. If your email address has changed in the past two weeks, please let me know.