Froch proudly earns Hall of Fame stamp of approval

In 2001, after Carl Froch won a bronze at the World amateur championships in Belfast, trainer and ex-pro Robert McCracken took him to one side.

“You’ll make a great professional fighter,” McCracken said.

You can imagine Rob saying it, straight face, emotionless. 

“Nah,” thought Froch.

“I didn’t really believe him,” Froch said, during his induction speech at the International Boxing Hall of Fame last weekend, 22 years later. “But he could see something in me that he thought would transcend into the professional rankings and without Robert McCracken I would never have turned professional. Absolutely no chance at all. Rob probably never knew this, but he was like a big brother, a father and a best friend all rolled into one. And together we conquered the world… It was one helluva journey as well.”

McCracken was the only person the Nottingham star travelled with to Canastota

Fighter and trainer arrived at the Hall of Fame on Thursday and flew back late on Sunday. 

Froch signed countless autographs and posed for hundreds of photos and recounted his unique career, admitting that fights against the likes of Robin Reid, Brian Magee, Tony Dodson, Sergey Tatevosyan, Matthew Barney, Mark Walnough and Charles Adamu prepared him for the challenges that would lie ahead.

All the while, Froch and McCracken worked together, building a rare closeness, trusting one another’s abilities implicitly.

“I was living in pubs, my mum was a landlady and I was just from pub to pub driving down to London to train and my main focus was boxing and in professional boxing you need to be 100 per cent committed and you have to believe yourself, you can’t cut corners,” Froch explained. “Minimum criteria for a professional boxer is fitness. That’s just the minimum. You’ve got to be an athlete, you’ve got to be a superior, elite level, fit and strong athlete just as a foundation, and you build from that. If you’re going to cut corners, not listen to your coach, not do the sparring, not do the hill sprints, you’re not going to do your strength and conditioning, if you’re not going to do all that as a basic starting block, then don’t bother getting in to pro boxing. Go in to football where you can pass the ball and have a little skive.”

McCracken gets a disciple-like response from his fighters and they implicitly buy into him, unless outside factors prove too strong – but cases like that are rare. Asked what made him follow McCracken’s lead so intently, Carl was quick to reply.

“It was me respecting him,” Froch said of their bond. “I knew what amateur career he’d had. “He had a silver medal in the World Cup, which is similar to the World Championships, as an amateur. He boxed at all levels, amateur and pro. He never won a world title but he was in there with Howard Eastman, he was in there with Keith Holmes, and he was in the gyms with the top fighters whilst he was fighting, so when you’ve got that vast experience. You don’t need to be winning at the top level to understand what you need to do to be a champion and compete at top level. I came straight out of the amateurs, my amateur coach was Dale McPhilbin who’s worked with Rob with the England squad in Sheffield years later. I turned pro and I was with Rob from day one. And I put my trust and belief into him and I listened to what he said.” 

Froch realised what McCracken saw in him in 2008, defeating Canadian Jean Pascal for his first world title. It was an epic battle, a signature Froch war, and then Froch immediately took his title on the road to defend against Jermain Taylor in the US.

Taylor dropped Froch early, but Carl battled back and was behind on two cards until he floored Taylor and stopped him with 14 seconds left of another thriller.

Froch had an unquenchable will to win, but he was not getting the recognition he was due back home in England. Showtime valued him and signed him up, but he languished on minor channels in the UK and his star was not rocketing outside boxing circles. He bit down, and fought on, backing himself for everything to come good if he kept winning.

“My career did slip under the radar for a bit of time,” Froch continued. “In 2008 I became world champion and then there was a financial crash and TV wasn’t what it could have been, but I signed to join the Super Six World Boxing Classic, went over to America and boxed on Showtime and had a great run against some of the best fighters and that was after I became world champ. I boxed Pascal, beat Taylor and then joined the Super Six tournament. It was a great period of my life. I wasn’t thinking I was fighting the best of the best, that I was jumping in with monster after monster, elite level fights… I was just taking advice from my coach, listening to him and making sure when I got in the ring I was as fit as I possibly could be, had the best possible attitude and I just refused to quit. I just went for it. I was just in a boxing bubble where nothing from the outside could distract me. I didn’t have kids until later in my career… I didn’t have any major distractions.” 

The Taylor fight actually meant Froch’s stock was higher in the US than it was in the UK and that was frustrating. The back-to-back fights with Pascal and Taylor should have made him a household name, but they were not for nothing. They only served to solidify the Froch-McCracken bond, through training camps in the UK, Canada and US their partnerships was rock solid.

They might have had difficult talks over the years but their communication never wavered, nor did their belief in one another.

“No, not at all,” Froch added. “We’ve had conversations when I’ve lost fights. To [Mikkel] Kessler, where did I go wrong? Where did we go wrong? What could we have done? It’s a team effort. When I lose, I know for a fact Rob McCracken felt he lost as well. He took every punch with me, because when I go back to the corner, I could see in his face and I could listen to the tone of his voice – he’s very cool and calm, calculated, he doesn’t get animated, there’s no shouting or swearing in the ring – I could understand what Rob was telling me in the minute rest. We had such good cohesion between us, he didn’t need to say much. I could read it from his look, his expressions and his instructions. For example, when I fought Jermain Taylor, I had to go out in round 12 and I had to stop him [Taylor] to defend my title. Now, the last thing Rob would do would be to say was, ‘Go out there, put it on him and knock him out. Run at him, give it everything and knock him out.’ It’s not Rocky II. It was, ‘Get behind your jab, don’t take a step backwards, put it on him but take your time. Get behind the jab and watch the counter.’ Little instructions where I’m thinking, ‘There’s a bit of urgency in his voice here.’ ‘Don’t take a step backwards, get on your front foot, when you’ve done your combo, stay on him.’ Little things like that where I would think, ‘Okay, go out there cool and composed, don’t smother my work, don’t walk into a stupid shot, don’t try too hard’ and then end up losing on points or walking into a shot and getting knocked out. It’s just the understanding and the relationship we had.”

Pascal and Taylor would make up just two of 12 back-to-back world title fights Froch had that saw him inducted last weekend. There was Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward, Lucian Bute, Yusaf Mack, Kessler again and two victories over George Groves.

Doubt him at your peril. He lost to Kessler and then dominated Abraham in his next fight. He lost to Ward and returned by battering Bute. When some might have thought he was ready to go against Groves after their first fight, he delivered the punch of his life to close the show, and his career, in the rematch. Like all great fighters, back him up, doubt him, and he will prove you wrong.

“Listen, all the best fighters get beat. Some manage to escape without it but getting beat isn’t a bad thing,” Froch continued. “I lost to Kessler in a very close points decision which I later avenged and I lost to Andre Ward who, apparently, is one of the greatest of all time – but for me – he puts a glass eye to sleep, but I’m not here to give stick out!”

Froch cannot help himself with the odd jab at his old rival but it is done mostly with his tongue in his cheek and a mischievous grin on his face. Carl longed for another crack at Ward and the chance to confer with McCracken about how to avenge the loss. After all, his record, and Froch’s Hall of Fame plaque, prove that Ward was the only one they could not figure out. Combined, Froch and McCracken were a great advert in sticking together, through triumph and adversity. 

“It worked,” Froch said of their partnership. “From my professional debut against Michael Pinnock at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, right up to my last fight at Wembley Stadium. The fights I had in my career, I had 35 fights, two losses, Kessler and I rematched him and I beat him and the only guy I’ve not beaten in my whole career is Andre Ward. And that’s not a bad fighter to lose to. I’d love to have got a rematch. Whether I’d have beaten him or not, who knows? Get him over to England, get him out of America, get him out of his comfort zone, get him to Nottingham…” 

The Cobra is well-known for his public tongue-lashings but, in the ring, he was a thrill-a-minute warrior with mallets in his gloves, a chin like a cinder block and more heart than a greetings card shop on Valentine’s Day. Froch is also a boxer people love to put up against stars in fantasy fights. There was an outside chance he would face Joe Calzaghe, but their peaks didn’t match up. There was speculation he might fight Gennady Golovkin at one stage, but it didn’t happen. Now some wonder how he would have done against Canelo Alvarez.

“I would have fought all three of them,” Froch replied without hesitation. “And they would have been really hard fights. I think that Canelo and Triple G would have been too small for me. I’m not sitting here and saying I would have beaten them, but I’d have backed myself to win those fights easier than fighting someone like Joe Calzaghe, who’s bigger, very tough, very fit and somebody I think you’ve probably got to knockdown a couple of times or knockout to win. And it’s hard to knock him out because Robin Reid hit him with everything. 

“I think out of those three fights, if I could pick one it would be the Joe Calzaghe fight. He’s big, he was so well-respected in the game as he should be, because he’s a great fighter. That would have been a great fight. That’s one that got away. I think he regrets that as much as I do. Now I’ve joined him in the Hall of Fame and it’s an honour to be up beside him and I’ve got nothing but respect for Joe Calzaghe because he had a fantastic career, undefeated in 46 fights so how can you not respect him. To be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, it’s the rubber stamp of approval on what I think was an amazing career. Case closed.”