Froch Does the Job

By Adam Berlin on June 4, 2011
Tonight’s fight started with respect and ended with respect

One man worked hard. One man worked harder. Both men earned their pay tonight. An honest night’s work is worthy of respect…

Leading up to their semi-final fight in the Super Six tournament, Glen Johnson and Carl Froch were all respect. Johnson had been around long enough to know that hype is just hype and fights start when the bell rings, not before. Carl Froch, no-nonsense, a blue-collar guy in his own right, was of the same mind. His pre-fight interviews showed he understood the solid worth of his veteran opponent. There was no doubt that when these two faced off, it would be a rough day on the job. There was no doubt that each man would earn his wage. And there was no doubt that the pre-fight respect would carry over into the fight. 

While the odds makers had Froch as a better than 2:1 favorite, I expected a more evenly-matched battle where Johnson would relentlessly press forward, where Froch would box and counter, where careful exchanges would sometimes erupt into furious bursts, where each fighter’s pre-fight work ethic would guarantee heightened action for twelve rounds and where each man’s respect, self-respect and respect for opponent, would be the catalyst to fight a “super” fight, a potentially superlative fight. There would be no glove-touching before every round like during the Pacquiao/Mosley disappointment where Sugar Shane’s respect, seemingly polite, was predicated on the fear of humiliation and decimation, tapping his weaker leather against the Philippine sensation’s stronger leather, a tacit no mas that lasted twelve rounds. Respect for Glen Johnson and Carl Froch had never been based on intimidation. For this fight, each man recognized he could lose if he allowed his opponent to do too much. Each man recognized he could win if he did what he did best. Johnson would need to apply constant pressure, land workman-like blows to body and head, wear his man down. Froch would need to stay outside, use his height advantage and younger legs to outbox and outscore Johnson (much as he did against Abraham), and to land hard counters when Johnson lingered too long in the pocket or pulled his punches back too slowly.

“Carl Froch is a great fighter and I have no disrespect towards him,” Johnson said before their bout. “This is a business and I’m going in there to win the fight. I’m not too concerned with what Carl Froch’s plan is or what he’s going to do to be honest with you. I have a winning formula and I don’t think Carl Froch can tell me different.”

Froch echoed that sentiment, but went a step further, projecting his winning formula on a potential rematch with Mikkel Kessler, the only man to beat him: “The one thing about Glen Johnson is I won’t have to go looking for him. I think I’ll get my vengeance against Glen Johnson. He’s a great fighter and I won’t disrespect him. He knows what he’s doing but I would have rather fought Mikkel Kessler just purely for the revenge.” Some could criticize Froch for looking too far ahead, for thinking past the opponent directly in front of him, but the desire for revenge is human, especially in warriors, and by all accounts Froch had trained hard, very hard, for the fight at hand. Returning to the subject of Johnson, Froch said, “He’s a warhorse, he’s a great fighter, he’s got bags and bags of experience, he really knows what he’s doing, and I won’t disrespect him at all.”

Indeed, Glengoffe Johnson has bags of experience and he’s carried those bags around the world. Nicknamed The Road Warrior, because he’s visited the backyards of so many champions, Johnson has too often been a traveling salesman selling his wares, putting in the miles and working his way through the country and abroad to make a relatively modest wage for a name fighter. His demeanor, thoughtful, polite, is a throwback to an era before I was born and his record is equally old-school. Coming into this Super Six fight, which was also a WBC super-middleweight title fight, Glen Johnson was 51-14-2.  Compare his fight total of 67 fights with the fight totals of the other contenders—Arthur Abraham (32 fights), Andre Direll (19 fights), Carl Froch (28 fights), Allan Greene (31 fights), Jermain Taylor (33 fights), Andre Ward (24 fights). Clearly the newcomer to the tournament was the veteran in the tournament. Johnson at 42 is only four years younger than Bernard Hopkins, who recently shocked the record books with his twelve-round clinic over Jean Pascal. While the press has already made boxing lore out of Hopkins’ seemingly immortal physique, Johnson is no slouch. In fact, his conditioning might be more impressive. Hopkins has gained weight with age, a natural progression. Glen Johnson campaigned as a light-heavy for a decade, but stripped himself to 167 pounds for this tournament. Still strong, always steady, Johnson entered the Super Six as a late substitute (replacing an injured Mikkel Kessler). In his first fight against Allan Green, Johnson went to work, pounding his young opponent into submission. The fight was stopped in Round 8.

Glen Johnson’s second fight in the Super Six promised to be more difficult. Carl Froch seemed to be peaking at the perfect time. The Englishman was 2 and 1 in the tournament, his loss to Kessler a close decision in a bloody, brutal fight that showed the Brit’s true grit. But it was Froch’s two wins that suggested he was a layered fighter who could both slug and box.  gainst fleet-footed and confident Andre Dirrell (pre-Abraham foul), Froch showed the ability to counter speed with power. Against rugged Arthur Abraham, Froch showed his boxing acumen by taming and dominating the Armenian bull. Few thought Froch could play such a capable matador in that fight, but he did, with poise and flourish. He won every round and helped ink the blueprint that Andre Ward would use in beating Abraham two weeks ago.

At Friday’s weigh-in, both men looked fit and ready. In fact, Johnson came in a pound less than Froch and had the lean look of a fighter who’s made weight the right way. There was nothing dried-out in his appearance, nothing emaciated. From the neck down, Johnson looked as young as Froch, who’s nine years younger. Johnson’s eyes belied his age, but in the best way. In their final pre-fight face-off, while Froch moved with nervous energy and started talking to the man two inches in front of him, Johnson relaxed into his pose and looked straight at a point, it seemed to me, just below Froch’s eyes, a harbinger of the straight-ahead pounding Johnson hoped to administer. Johnson no longer needs to look into the souls of his opponents because he knows, in his own soul, that he’s seen everything in boxing. It’s a blind confidence, not born from arrogance, but from hundreds of rounds of experience. There are moments in Johnson’s fights when he doesn’t bother watching where his punches are going because he knows the distance between his fists and his opponent’s most vulnerable places, jaw and chin and temple, heart and liver, and sometimes, when the man in front of him dips too low, as Allan Green did in their first fight, the back of the head.

Glen Johnson, the veteran, the challenger, the newcomer to the Super Six, made his ring walk first through Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, wearing a hardhat on his head, clearly ready for another night on the job. For this fight, The Road Warrior, originally from Jamaica but now living in Miami, was a mere twelve hundred miles from home. Carl Froch was the true traveler in this fight, coming from across the pond. British flags waved and Englishmen chanted as their man from Nottingham came through the ropes dressed in black. He was full of nervous energy, shaking his arms, bouncing on his feet, throwing punches at the air, anxious to finally get the night started. Johnson stood still waiting patiently. 

The ring emptied. Instructions were given. The bell rang.

Round 1 was a feeling-out round for both men. Johnson landed a couple of rights. Froch threw some jabs that fell short. Johnson took the round. The second echoed the first, Johnson landing the cleaner shots. Froch looked tight and in Round 3 Johnson capitalized on this tightness by pressing the action and landing a big right hand off Froch’s head, punctuated by a hard left and right at round’s end. On my card, Johnson was up three rounds to none.

Tight turned loose in Round 4. Froch found his distance, and suddenly his arms were well-oiled pistons shooting at Johnson. Jab after jab landed and Johnson’s plodding seemed less methodical, more slow. By Round 5, Froch, who is nicknamed The Cobra, was living up to his moniker. Head exposed, eyes always watching, hands so low all you see, at times, is a muscular band of torso and neck and head, Froch was poised to strike at all times. While Johnson landed a combination early in the round, Froch was the consistent puncher, connecting with the uppercut, throwing his right hand, and landing plenty of straight jabs. In Round 6, Johnson came out looking to turn the fight rough, but he was swinging and missing. When one of Johnson’s thudding rights landed flush, Froch smiled with his mouth and answered with his fists. Froch took the round and the fight was even.

Some fights fall into patterns and while the pattern for this Super Six fight was entertaining, it was never superlative. Froch moved and jabbed. Johnson threw his big right hand, which sometimes landed. Froch shook off any damage and answered with combinations that slowed the older fighter’s charge. Each time Johnson landed his power right, I hoped he’d sustain his attack, but he rarely did. Instead, Froch remained the busier fighter. The fight’s best round was the eighth, a close three minutes where both men stood toe to toe, landing volleys of hard punches. But that was Johnson’s last real stand. Fatigue seemed to override Johnson’s desperation and the final four rounds belonged to Froch. By the twelfth, Froch was practically strutting around the ring, holding his hands ever lower, potshotting the older fighter who stood, breathing heavy, in front of him. That was the fight’s final tableau. One face held a cocky smile. The other an open, tired mouth.

Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall is a cavernous space, old school in its simplicity. No frills, a lot of cement, it’s a relic of a building that, especially on the inside, seems diametrically opposed to the glitz of most gambling towns. A place for business, this fight felt business-like. Glen Johnson worked hard but his stamina was lacking and he never followed up his big right hands.  Carl Froch worked harder. Once he found his distance, once his limbs loosened, he got busy and stayed busy, piling up the points. It was a workmanlike effort, honorable and steady. The fight was not inspiring, there were no adrenaline rushes that come when fights turn truly super, but it was a solid fight fought by two professionals. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the decision, a majority win for Froch. For some reason, the judge that should have been the least biased, Nobuaki Yuratani from Japan, was blinded by something. He scored the fight 114 to 114, a draw. The American and English judges got it right, scoring it 117-111 and 116-112 respectively. My card followed the American’s.

On deck for Froch is Andre Ward, who has dominated his three opponents in the tournament. Both members of the original Super Six, Froch/Ward promises to be another good fight, probably a better fight than tonight’s because Ward will push Froch to places Johnson could not. How Froch responds and how well he disrupts Ward’s stellar boxing skills will determine if the Super Six final lives up to its billing.

Tonight’s fight started with respect and ended with respect. Froch complimented his opponent, stating, “He was very tough, very strong and durable. Like sparring an oak tree. All credit to Glen Johnson. I hit him with some big shots.” On Froch, Johnson was equally complimentary, admitting that instead of imposing his game plan on Froch, Froch possessed the stronger will. 

One man worked hard. One man worked harder. Both men earned their pay tonight. An honest night’s work is worthy of respect.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Weigh-In: Carl Froch vs. Glen Johnson - Super Six World Boxing Classic - SHOWTIME Sports

Ringside: Carl Froch On Johnson & Future Fights

Recap: Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward - Super Six World Boxing Classic


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