Afterward, Englishman Carl Froch was cheeky enough to question former super middleweight star Joe Calzaghe's "bottom" -- in the chiefly British, hearty sense of the word. Speaking in his post-fight interview, Froch said of Calzaghe eschewing retirement to make a match with him: "I think [Calzaghe] has got enough bottom."
It's not asinine for someone like Froch to call Calzaghe out of retirement. A victory over the Welshman would likely seat Froch in the throne of British boxing. For his part, though, Calzaghe might argue anyone making his first defense of a 168-pound title -- roughly five percent as many as Calzaghe made -- deserves a spanking more than an encouraging pat on the butt. Shall we stop this?
|Froch's jaw worked overtime on Saturday. (Getty Images)|
Saturday night at Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, Froch, 14 seconds from losing a majority decision, beat former undisputed middleweight champ Jermain Taylor near enough to unconsciousness for referee Mike Ortega to intervene on Taylor's behalf. Officially, it went TKO-12. Unofficially, it went even better than that.
If starching someone good as Taylor is one way for Froch to launch his stardom, an even better way is to fight like he talks. Put a checkmark next to that, too.
Froch is a rare thing today: someone who fights as well as he talks. A gentlemanly Ricardo Mayorga with fistic panache. Froch does not make ludicrous self-aggrandizing proclamations, then get in the ring and fight scared -- left elbow raised, track shoes tight. Instead he trusts his chin in the ring as much as out of it.
Is his defense one to teach children? Absolutely not. He marries an amateur's flaw -- I see punches better when my hands are low -- with a professional's chin. He pulls straight back from punches, here and there, but also girds his chin with the upper chest and absorbs blows directly. His defense is charming in its danger.
There's as much brashness in the chap's fighting as there is in his talk. For once. Hearing Froch invite members of the American media to help him later celebrate his glorious victory was, in its practiced simplicity, enchanting as Clive Owen's portrayal of Dr. Larry in the movie Closer: You don't like what I'm about to say, I know, but before you tell me why, you might consider that I already know why.
Then there was his poise after Taylor dropped him in the third on Saturday. The proud American -- at times insecure, at times savagely confident, always sincere -- clubbed him with right hands till one found the left temple. Froch dropped. But because he landed well, keeping the back of his head off the blue mat, he was able to gather his wits, obey his corner, rise and finish the round.
Symmetry seekers no doubt will want to liken what happened in Froch-Taylor to what happened in Pavlik-Taylor I. Don't do it. They're different cases. Pavlik was out of his mind, one properly placed punch from unconsciousness. Froch was just a little stunned. That is, Froch in the third looked nothing like Taylor in the 12th.
And Taylor at 168 pounds looked little like Taylor at 160. Who knew eight pounds could make such a difference? Taylor, always a big, muscular, intimidating middleweight, looked small against Froch. If he didn't look completely outgunned, Taylor at least looked skinny.
Flawed, too. And that leads us to ask: How can a prizefighter be both good enough to decision Bernard Hopkins twice and bad enough to get hit with every right hand that follows a left? Right cross, right hook, Wright jab, you name it. If you can get Taylor's guard up with a left hand, you can't miss him with a right.
Taylor is either slipping and countering effectively or stumbling backward, hands raised and open. If he slips your jab, look out. Otherwise, any elite fighter can march forward, throw one-twos, and trust he's going to get the better of Taylor.
That's what Froch finally did after squandering much of the fight's first half. He made it a battle of chins and conditioning. And now Froch's glad he did.
See, Jermain Taylor has an exciting air about him. He's fun to watch. He's ferocious on the attack. He truly can do enough in the final seconds of an otherwise-inactive round to steal it. Taylor's tendency to win close rounds and close fights with ineffective aggressiveness once led to the nickname "Bad Decisions" -- in lieu of his chosen cognomen, "Bad Intentions." That made Taylor a steward of sorts, a keeper of titles or fame till someone took them away by knockout.
Perhaps Taylor is little more than a bridge to others' greatness, then. Fine. Every time Taylor loses, I wonder if it will be his last go-round. And that ensures I write some note of thanks to him: for being a class act always, for trying so hard, for never allowing post-fight frustration to defeat his composure.
If Taylor is the best prizefighter Arkansas ever produces, Arkansas has done just fine.
Froch, on the other hand, is doubtful the best prizefighter Nottingham has ever produced -- who has time to check all those knights' records? -- but he's the best Nottinghamshire has going for it now. That's plenty. He believes that exciting North Americans is a good way to achieve wealth and celebrity. He might be right. So, neglect not the Canadians, Carl.
Froch should go to Montreal, beat Librado Andrade and Lucian Bute and then set his sights on a unification match with Kessler the Dane. And do it all on Showtime. When, in a mark of newfound austerity, HBO turned down Froch-Taylor, it gave Showtime an opening. And Showtime never seems to miss one of those.
Bart Barry can be reached at email@example.com.
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