Englishman Froch's star on ascent after victory in Super Six semifinals
WBC super middleweight champion Carl Froch is a naturally marketable fighter
Limited television exposure both home and abroad have undercut his visibility
Froch meets Andre Ward in the Super Six final; the bout needs to happen in NYC
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- We in boxing bellyache all the time about fighters who duck dangerous opponents, refuse to take chances and turn prizefights into glorified wrestling matches. Carl Froch, the reigning WBC super middleweight champion, is none of those things -- yet he's not very popular.
Since 2008, Froch has fought a murderers' row of 168-pound opponents: Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham. On Saturday, Froch had an entertaining and action-packed fight with Glen Johnson in the second semifinal of Showtime's Super Six tournament. Froch stood toe-to-toe with Johnson, a surprisingly spry 42-year-old former champion who had earned the fight after knocking out Allan Green last November. Froch absorbed some heavy shots from Johnson but fired back far more of his own on his way to a comfortable majority decision.
Now, it doesn't surprise me that only 2,286 fans attended the fight Boardwalk Hall. Johnson, a Jamaican who fights out of Miami, has no fan base. And Froch, born and raised in Nottingham, England, has fought just three times in the United States. What did surprise me is that compared to British stars like Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton, Froch is an unknown. He has very few sponsorships and, outside of Nottingham, not much support in the U.K.
I took the question of why to Froch's promoter, Eddie Hearn, who signed Froch to a five-fight deal last month after Froch decided to part ways with promoter Mick Hennessy.
"It's all about profile and exposure on the U.K.'s biggest sports broadcasts," Hearn said. "And he hasn't had that."
Froch's previous four fights in the Super Six were broadcast back in the U.K. by Primetime, a fringe satellite network that has a fraction of the viewership of the Sky Network. If Sky is HBO, Primetime is Epix.
"The British fans should love watching Carl Froch but they haven't had the opportunity to do so," Hearn said. "They have to watch him on YouTube. The people that watched the Jermain Taylor fight on YouTube said, 'Wow, this guy is incredible.' But he hasn't had enough exposure on sports shows, sports magazines, national media. Because he hasn't been on Sky, he hasn't had that automatic platform."
Hearns has big plans for Froch. He says Sky executives -- who picked up the fight only three-and-a-half weeks ago -- were "over the moon" about Froch's performance. Hearns says he plans to do a media blitz with Froch when he gets back to the U.K., plugging him onto sports shows and talk shows all over Great Britain. When Froch fights Andre Ward in the Super Six finals in the fall, Hearns says, all of England will be watching.
Put a camera or a microphone in front of Froch and he sells himself. He's young, good-looking (at least his model girlfriend, Rachel Cordingly, thinks so) and a natural tough talker. At the postfight news conference on Saturday, Froch dismissed talk that Johnson was a difficult opponent, claimed Ward won't know what to do with his style and smacked around IBF champion (and non-Super Six participant) Lucian Bute for having the audacity to think he was the best 168-pounder in the world. If Froch isn't a marketable fighter, no one is.
One other thing on Froch-Ward, and this is aimed directly at Hearn, Showtime's Ken Hershman and Ward's promoter, Dan Goossen: Do not put the Super Six final in Las Vegas. The best way to crush the momentum this tournament has picked up over the last two months is to hold its marquee matchup in front of 3,500 fans at the cavernous MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay. It makes zero sense. Neither Froch nor Ward has ever fought in Vegas and there is no reason to believe any of their fans would travel there.
This is a New York fight. Froch (28-1) has now had two entertaining wins in the Northeast -- Saturday's win over Johnson and a 2009 knockout of Taylor. He is starting to win over fans in the region. And if Hearn does his job over the next few months, Froch will certainly have a few more fans willing to make the (relatively) short trip to New York to see Froch fight for the first time at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden, which may have a few extra open dates if the NBA is tied up in a lockout.
Ward? I'll admit, New York doesn't do much for him. He's a West Coast fighter who has built up a strong fan base in his hometown of Oakland, Calif.. But Froch, not surprisingly, has no intention of going to the Bay Area for the final. Ward has a good pedigree. He's a well-spoken former Olympic gold medalist -- the last U.S. Olympic gold medalist, actually -- who should be a bigger star nationally. Maybe a big fight in Manhattan is just what he needs.
There it is: Put this fight on the East Coast, do a big promotion in the media capital of the world and watch how well it does.