May, 29, 2013
By Brian Campbell | ESPN.com
Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesCarl Froch's recent run has raised the ceiling in terms of his potential legacy -- but by how much?There was a time when Carl Froch's mouth did as much talking for his career as his performances inside the ring.
Beginning with his first fight on American soil -- a 2009 come-from-behind TKO of Jermain Taylor in the 12th round that put him on the radar in the U.S. -- Froch used his new platform as an attempt to lure recently retired, and fellow U.K. star, Joe Calzaghe back into the ring.
Froch, of course, never did end up fighting Calzaghe, the longtime super middleweight king who retired in 2009 with a perfect 46-0 record, over their two-year public feud that followed. (They have since made amends, with Calzaghe openly backing Froch entering his rematch with Mikkel Kessler this past Saturday. Froch won by unanimous decision.)
But in the three full years since Froch's career-making victory over Taylor, the native of Nottingham, England, has done nothing but continue to impress with each performance. In fact, he's on such a hot run right now -- and doesn't appear to be slowing down entering the peak of his marketability at age 35 -- that if things continue to go his way, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that he ends up defeating Calzaghe in a way that few had thought possible: by surpassing his legacy in the pantheon of great British fighters.
It might sound premature to think about. And I won't begin to make the case that if they had mythically faced off in their prime, the result would be anything different than a Calzaghe victory. But the glaring weakness on Calzaghe's résumé has always been his lack of top competition and the fact that it took him until age 38 to fight outside of Europe.
Calzaghe scored the biggest victories of his career over his final three years against unbeatens Jeff Lacy and Kessler, along with his two triumphs in America over Bernard Hopkins and a faded Roy Jones Jr. He carries the glitz of having walked away unblemished as one of the top super middleweights in history thanks to a 10-year title run and 21 defenses, not to mention the lineal light heavyweight crown he took from Hopkins.
But as things stand now, Froch (31-2, 22 KOs), who endears himself to the hard-core fan with his willingness to constantly face the best, may have already fought better competition than the protective Calzaghe did throughout his entire run.
Froch was not only the first fighter to hand defeats to the likes of Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute, he also has scored additional victories over former champions Taylor, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson and now Kessler, without taking anything resembling a soft touch in between.
And with his debated 2010 defeat to Kessler now avenged, Froch is focusing on correcting his other blemish: a 2011 decision loss to unbeaten super middleweight champion Andre Ward in the finals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Any designs on besting Calzaghe's legacy would be heavily bolstered by Froch's defeating boxing's almost unanimous No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter. And it's clearly a hard sell to try to create a scenario in which Froch could do such a thing considering Ward's versatility, toughness and the fact that we still likely haven't seen him pushed enough to find out how great he truly is.
But if there's a fighter who is relentless and confident enough to come close, it might be Froch who, despite appearing to have lost by a fairly wide margin against Ward, used his pressing style to persuade two of the judges sitting ringside to score it daringly close at 115-113.
Could Froch do any better in a rematch? That remains to be seen. But he clearly has shown himself to be the rare fighter who has improved into his mid-30s with each fight, while others have begun to fade. And claiming he has four big fights left before retirement, Froch isn't just saving his best for last, he's forcing us to recalculate his ceiling.
Suddenly Froch is in high demand and could find himself in a number of high-profile bouts, from additional rematches with Kessler and Ward to showdowns with Hopkins or fellow super middleweight titlist Robert Stieglitz. Froch has shown himself to be an exciting, honest and durable fighter, but how many expected to see him setting up shop at this stage of his career in the pound-for-pound Top 10?
It may be a reach to expect Froch to defeat a fighter the class of Ward and to carry on his remarkable run should they meet again, just as it might be too much to expect him to surpass Calzaghe when it's all said and done. But what makes it refreshing to watch is that Froch is willing to go down swinging while giving it a try.