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|If Carl Froch doesn't really want a rematch with Andre Ward, he has plenty of attractive alternatives.|
So who should super middleweight titlist Carl Froch fight next? There are so many possibilities.
Froch's exciting May 25 win against Mikkel Kessler, a rematch in London to unify a pair of alphabet titles, put him in a great position. He has belts and brings considerable economic clout to a fight, as he's a bona fide ticket seller and can generate pay-per-view money in his native England.
Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn recently unveiled his dream two-fight plan for Froch -- a winter rematch with Andre Ward (who beat Froch rather easily in the Super Six final in 2011) or a rubber match with Kessler followed by a summer 2014 showdown with countryman George Groves.
"Everyone is calling Carl's name because he is the money right now at 168," Hearn told ESPN.com. "We were box office [in England] -- live on over 40 countries [for the Kessler rematch] and sold 19,000 tickets in three hours. Could have sold 40,000. We have been working towards this moment, and now we are here. Kessler III, [Bernard] Hopkins, Groves and Ward are all options. Ward has no options at 168, so he would have to come here if he wants it."
Let's handicap the field of the most interesting Froch opponents:
Ward II: Ward is the best fighter in the world not named Floyd Mayweather Jr., and he beat Froch basically with one hand in the Super Six final (he had concealed a training injury). Hearn argues that Ward has no other options but to go to England to face Froch again. That's ridiculous. Ward has massive backing from HBO, which means he's going to be paid handsomely no matter what he does next. Granted, there aren't a lot of great options for Ward, but I wouldn't worry about him. He doesn't need Froch. He's the real champ, he'll make seven figures in his next fight, and although he isn't as big a draw as Froch is in England, Ward is a draw in his hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Besides, I don't think Hearn really wants to make Ward-Froch II. He (and everyone else with even rudimentary knowledge of boxing) knows Ward's style is terribly wrong for Froch. Ward would likely outbox Froch yet again, thus derailing the great run Froch is on since losing to Ward. Imagine how lopsided a rematch would be if Ward had two hands? That said, I'd only be interested in the rematch if Ward went to England. That would be big, but when it's all said and done, I don't see the rematch happening in the foreseeable future. In my view, neither side really needs it and I don't think Froch and Hearn really want it.
Kessler III: Froch and Kessler have had two exciting fights and are 1-1 against each other. Both bouts were commercial successes and both excited their considerable fan bases. Although Froch was the clear winner in the second fight and a third meeting doesn't feel necessary, I'd say there is a good chance for the rubber match. It'll be up to Denmark's Kessler and promoter Sauerland Event to decide whether they want to pursue it, because Froch and Hearn seem more than willing to do it again. It makes all the sense in the world for Froch -- big money, a guaranteed sellout and a fight he'll be heavily favored to win. For Kessler, it's also by far the biggest fight he can make. That sounds like the right math for it to happen again. My only question: Would HBO, which bought the rematch, throw it's support behind a rubber match? It seems kind of pointless. But even if HBO didn't get on board, the fight would still generate considerable money.
Groves: Hearn also promotes Groves, so this will be an easy fight to make when the time comes. That too, it would be a huge event in England, although it wouldn't really resonate anywhere else. The undefeated Groves is on the verge of a mandatory title shot for the belt currently held by Robert Stieglitz. Hearn would like to see Groves win a title and then be able to match him with Froch in a unification fight, so Groves almost certainly won't be the next opponent. But he could, as Hearn hopes, be an opponent for Froch next summer. When this fight does happen -- it seems more like when, not if -- it should be a good one. Their styles should blend well together for an exciting fight. I'd like to see it.
Hopkins: Froch said he'd be interested in facing the 48-year-old future Hall of Famer, but only if the light heavyweight titleholder would meet him at a catchweight. When told of this, Hopkins, who first has a July 13 mandatory defense against Karo Murat scheduled, said "done." Hopkins has dropped down in weight before, to 170, for fights with Kelly Pavlik and Winky Wright, and said he'd do it for Froch. Hopkins also raised the ante by saying he would fight him in England, arguing that he liked the idea of fighting the outspoken Froch because his big personality -- meaning Hopkins wouldn't have to carry the promotion on his own, as he has done for so many other fights with less-talkative foes.
I think there's an outside shot of this fight happening. Hopkins-Murat will be aired by Showtime because Hopkins is with Golden Boy, which has been banished by HBO. Froch-Kessler II was on HBO, so the TV entanglements in the U.S. could make Hopkins-Froch tough. However, I don't think that Froch has any contractual obligations to HBO, meaning the fight could air on Showtime. Further, Golden Boy fighters undoubtedly will fight on HBO again sometime in the future, and when they do, Hopkins-Froch seems to be something the network would be interested in. The prospect of this fight intrigues me.
Robert Stieglitz: Germany's Stieglitz has a belt, and he and Froch could both make good money for a unification match. Froch brings his British television money and big fan support. Stieglitz, who would have to go to England for the fight, recently signed a four-fight deal with the German network SAT.1. That deal kicks off with a July 13 fight and so would also bring money to the table. In the ring, it would be a good fight -- but I doubt it will happen.
Hearn wants his other guy, Groves, to face Stieglitz in the mandatory fight and isn't about to block his path to a title. Froch has other options for big fights. Groves, not so much. Plus, with Stieglitz just starting a new TV deal, why would his team risk such a tough fight? If Stieglitz was at the end of the deal and had nothing to lose, I could see it happening -- but not now. If Stieglitz-Groves is made and Stieglitz wins, then I'd say Froch-Stieglitz becomes more of a possibility at that point.
Gennady Golovkin: Let's get this out of the way first: I'd pretty much give up a lung to see this fight. It would be a can't-miss action fight. Golovkin has a June 29 middleweight title defense that he would first need to win against Froch's countryman Matthew Macklin. But Golovkin routinely says that he will fight anyone from 154 pounds to 168, so weight isn't an issue. Golovkin would also have no issue traveling to England. And, at least in terms of American TV, this is a no-brainer for HBO, which is where Golovkin fights and Froch had his previous fight. I doubt it will happen, but a man can dream, can't he?
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I feel similarly about this fight as I do about a Golovkin fight. How about I give up a kidney for this one? It's another can't-miss action slugfest that HBO, which televises Chavez, would probably get behind in a big way. Former middleweight titlist Chavez is on the verge of going to super middleweight, so weight is no issue. Chavez's next fight is likely to be at 165-ish in September. This fight would generate a ton of money on U.S. pay-per-view because Chavez's big Mexican-American fan base would buy it on HBO PPV, and Froch's fans in England would eat it up. If there ever is any serious talk about this fight, however, it feels more like a U.S. fight than an England fight. As sweet as this would be, it sounds too good to be true. Don't count on it.
Joe Calzaghe: OK, I'm throwing this out there just for fun. It has probably less than 1 percent chance of happening, but wouldn't it be huge? Froch always felt that Calzaghe, the Welsh hero, ducked him before retiring. The two of them have trash-talked through the media for years. Froch is building a great case that he has already surpassed Calzaghe's considerable accomplishments as the United Kingdom's best-ever super middleweight, even though Calzaghe was a legitimate two-division champion and retired undefeated. Calzaghe will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year and is a slam-dunk first-ballot guy. But maybe he wants to restart the five-year clock for election and come back to fight Froch in what would be one of the biggest fights in U.K. history?