Carl Froch fights this weekend against Glen Johnson in the semifinals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, and recently I had the chance to read his book, "The Cobra: My Story," co-written with Niall Hickman.
The most interesting thing to gather about Froch over the 320ish pages is that his confidence is truly massive, to the point that I wouldn't even say it can be confused with pure arrogance or egotism, but that he often teeters between confidence and egotism, and the two essentially become the same. Froch, by his account, has never met a fight he didn't fancy, really; never met a challenge he felt too big; and never taken a loss he agreed with in the pro ranks, or even a particularly close decision.
The early stages of the book deal with his upbringing and his amateur career, and this part of the book drags pretty badly at points, and becomes particularly laborious when we're past his childhood and still waiting for his boxing career to get serious in the amateurs, and he's apparently spending all of his time in his mother's various pubs, beating up troublemakers or otherwise intimidating them. All of these stories -- and there are frankly too many -- are told in that sort of, "I'm not saying I'm a tough guy" way, and always end with Froch portrayed as, well, a tough guy. In most of the tales, he is the skinny, underestimated youth, and his foes are faceless, drunken bullies, various and sundry troublemakers who got what was, of course, coming to them.
But once Froch gets into his professional career and his adult life, things pick up, as is often the case for, you know, the majority of the human race.
The book does not impress stylistically; that is, I could see it very easy to get bored by the subject matter, which is for the most part a fight-to-fight rundown of his pro career through last November's win over Arthur Abraham. If you are not interested in Froch detailing his career with little else of any significant note once said career starts, the book is not for you.
But the further I got into his account of all of his fights, the more interesting I found Froch's personality. He has patterns in describing fights, and for the few in his career he's had some struggles, he has a detailed description of what did or may have gone wrong in the lead-up to the bout, or in the bout itself. It is hard to find many moments where Froch truly takes full responsibility for a shortcoming, but he will sometimes meet his ego halfway. For instance, in the loss to Mikkel Kessler, Froch has plenty of reasons, but as he puts it, "no excuse." He blames himself for not finishing Kessler when he feels he could have, but also asterisks that by complaining the fight was in Herning, Denmark, rather than Nottingham, where he feels he surely would have received favorable scorecards.
It is fun to find out which fighters he respected after the bells, and find out the few he didn't. Notable among those Froch has few kind words for are Andre Dirrell and Matthew Barney, the latter of whom Froch fought in 2005. But he has favorable things to say about many of his tougher opponents, including Kessler, Robin Reid, Arthur Abraham, Jermain Taylor, Brian Magee, and especially Jean Pascal.
Here's an excerpt from the book, as Froch recalls the fight with Magee in 2006, which made Froch the British and Commonwealth super middleweight champion:
I caught him sweetly with a double jab and Magee dropped his arms: he held on to me, but I shrugged him off. I had my arms down and threw a long, left uppercut that caught him under the chin, lifting his head up. I went bang with a right hand that was as painful for me as it probably was for him. I don't now how for the life of me he didn't go over, but somehow he grabbed hold of me again. There was nothing left in him now: in every sense, he was hanging on. Another overhand left and I had Magee in the corner. I lined him up and as he came to grab me again I sent another uppercut on to his chin. It landed with horrific force and sent the blood, spit and snot flying into his corner. Magee collapsed on my left foot. I can be a spiteful bastard at times, and I was that annoyed with his constant head-butting and holding tactics that I wanted to stamp on his face. Being honest, I had totally lost my cool and all I wanted to do was inflict some real pain on him. Maybe it was the broken hand that made me so angry, I don't know, but I guess that sums up your emotions when you are in the ring. It is dog eat dog in there and pretty much anything is fair game.
At the time, just for a few seconds, I could have done anything and it was all I could do not to stamp on Magee. I was properly wound up and I am just thankful I didn't: Magee needed oxygen when the ref called it off and thankfully he made a quick recovery. I am glad he was OK and that he was healthy because I now have a lot of time for Brian. I might think he's a dirty fucker in the ring, but out of it he was a top bloke and I respect what he has done in boxing, whatever my opinions on his tactics being close to the edge of what is allowed.
And here's another excerpt, from the Dirrell fight. You might recall that the two of them sat on one knee when the scores were being read. Froch has not forgotten that, either:
The MC announced a split decision and Dirrell got down on one knee and crossed himself. He tried to drag me down with him and I told Dirrell in no uncertain terms to fuck right off.
To my eternal shame I decided to copy Dirrell and I got down on bended knee as they announced the results. The reason for this was I was thinking about Ken Hershman, and I didn't want it to look bad. I didn't want it to seem as if I wasn't getting involved with the whole drama of the announcement of the results. Even to this day I am annoyed and embarrassed I did. I should have stood there like a man and taken the judges' scorecards standing up. Dirrell could have stayed on one knee for the rest of the night as far as I was concerned.
Froch also talks very openly about the love of his life, Rachael Cordingley, and their son Rocco, who was born in 2010. What seems clear in the book -- and believable if you've followed his career -- is that Froch is grounded as a person, and has not let fame or fortune or world champion status get him away from who he is as a person. To be honest, the teenage boy in the pub brawls early in the book doesn't seem that much different than the man in his mid-30s toward the end of the book, just younger, dumber (as we all were), and without so many options.
There doesn't seem to be anything fake about Carl Froch, really. The book's portrayal of him is about the same as what you get from him during press conferences, interviews, and articles of all kinds. He is very confident, even arrogant. He is quite blunt at times. But he's not high-strung, and he's not extravagant. He simply believes in his abilities, and seems to enjoy proving skeptics wrong.
For a mid-career book meant to capitalize on rising popularity, "The Cobra" is enjoyable, though a pretty light read. The book is more recommended to those who like Froch, or those who have interest in seeing his career and the fights through his eyes. I wouldn't call it a revealing book, really, and it's certainly no engrossing read, but neither was to be expected from a fighter who perhaps has not even reached his career peak yet.
Full Disclosure: Bad Left Hook did receive a free review copy of the materials.