As reported by Victor Salazar on thaboxingvoice.com a few days ago, WBA Super World and IBF Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs) has been ordered by the IBF to defend their version of the title against fellow Brit James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs), and given thirty days to negotiate from December 31st.
Froch, now 37, is heralded throughout the boxing world for the unforgivable schedule he has kept since winning his first world title against Jean Pascal back in 2008. Following that victory he fought Jermain Taylor (when he was still Jermain Taylor), Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler twice, Arthur Abraham, Andre Ward, and Lucien Bute. He lost only twice in that run, once to Kessler that he later avenged and the other to Andre Ward. He then faced a young and undefeated knockout artist in George Groves for the first time in 2013.
Froch took an almighty beating for the vast majority of that fight before rallying in the ninth to force a contentious stoppage from referee Howard Foster. The consequent rematch between the two was the biggest fight I’ve ever witnessed, certainly the most advertised, and a crowd of 80,000 people gathered at Wembley Stadium in London in May 2014. After a somewhat cagey opening they saw Froch decimate Groves with one lethal right hand in the eighth round, putting to bed all the controversy produced from the first fight in emphatic fashion. That was ‘The Cobra’s’ last outing.
James DeGale is almost a decade younger than Froch. The southpaw turned pro immediately after winning a gold medal for the UK at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and looked posed to duplicate that form by winning his first ten matches in the paid ranks. The first and only blemish on his record thus far happened in his eleventh fight against none other than that pesky cat George Groves, who handed Degale his first defeat by majority decision in a very closely fought contest.
The rebuilding process was gradual for him after that as he managed to string together eight wins, but the problem was these fights were broadcast on terrestrial television in the UK (free TV) and were held in venues with small capacities that were almost obscure as his opponents. Degale must have realized this as it was happening, and he jumped ship from Hennessey Sports promotion company to the glamour-ridden world of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sports, ensuring much more publicity and fanfare for his stuttering career. Since making the switch, DeGale has gotten two uncharacteristically early stoppages over quality opposition in Brandon Gonzales and Marco Antonio Periban, the former on the undercard of Froch-Groves II at Wembley.
These two men have had contrasting experiences in their careers of the last few years. They are perceived so very differently. Froch may as well have a giant ’S’ tattooed on his chest as far as the British public are concerned. He is hailed as the ultimate warrior and the way he goes about his business in the ring endears him to all, regardless of whether he wins or loses. He will not be deterred. It’s as if his opponents stoke the fire in his belly with every punch they land. Andre Ward out-manoeuvred him with a very effective approach, but even he was flagging by the eleventh and twelfth having won nearly every round. And the Kessler loss was a shootout that could have gone either way. Froch is legit.
Contrarily, Degale has been somewhat of an outsider, he isn’t as relatable. I’ve heard it said that people lost interest after his loss to Groves but he was booed going in to the ring for that fight. He isn’t accepted to the same degree for a few reasons. For one his style in the ring is not nearly as exciting as Froch’s. DeGale is all about skill, not will. He often paws with the jab and peppers opponents with clusters of hooks and uppercuts before sliding out to the side. You’ll rarely see him in a fire-fight. His ostracism is compounded by the fact that DeGale just comes across as arrogant whenever he is on camera. It isn’t a likeable arrogance either, like Muhammad Ali and Ray Leonard exhibited in their day, it’s just unsavory. I don’t know if it’s his mannerisms, his accent or what but a very vague air repels me from him. I’ve never met the man and don’t know anything about him on a personal level, I’m just communicating what comes across to me when I see him interviewed, by all accounts from people around him he’s a very nice person.
Regardless, DeGale is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt. No matter how many fans dislike him, or even worse, are indifferent towards him, he has worked his way up through the rankings and so officially deserves his shot at the title. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Furthermore, many boxing analysts believe that he has the style to give Froch nightmares all night long which is an added intrigue to the proposed clash.
The question is whether people will clamour for Froch to defend his title against another hungry cub, or whether he relinquishes his belt in order to pursue the bout he has repeatedly stated as his preference against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Las Vegas, Nevada. Do Froch’s past glories mean that he is exempt from criticism should he choose to forgo the DeGale fight?
I think they do. If you take in to consideration his performances and achievements since arriving on the world stage nobody should be asking any more of him. The reality is, he has just dispelled the challenge of another fighter in Groves who represented that young challenger ready to dethrone the established king. He is not obliged to give any more of himself. Eddie Hearn, promoter of both Froch and DeGale, has been implicitly pushing for the two to meet whenever he gets the chance, but has repeatedly stated that Froch is likely to retire should he not get the Chavez Jr. fight. I think he has earned the right to call the shots in the same way that Joe Calzaghe was given a pass for not fighting Froch when he was on his way up.
And if Froch does indeed choose to call time on his career, he has been a wonderful servant to the game and an exceptional representative for his country, but I guarantee DeGale’s name will be brought up long after that final bell has rung out. It is the nature of the beast.