Super Middleweights, 12 Rounds
Carl Froch v. Arthur Abraham
TV: Polsat Sport (Poland), 2pm EST ... ARD (Germany), Primetime (UK), Sport 1 (Hungary), 5:15pm EST ... Showtime (USA, tape delay), 9pm EST
Note: Bad Left Hook will be covering this fight LIVE in the afternoon, possibly with the 2pm Polsat broadcast (which includes full undercard coverage), or at least around 5pm EST for the main event. The fight will not be aired in the U.S. until 9pm on Showtime, and that will be on tape delay. We'll have results posted on the site in the afternoon, but they will be behind a link, so you won't be spoiled simply by visiting the front page. Note that almost all boxing sites will have results posted early.
Both Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham rose to prominence off of U.S. soil, like most of the top fighters in the short history of the super middleweight division. Froch turned pro in 2002, and a year later won the English title, following that up with the Commonwealth and British titles in 2004. He kept winning and defending his belts, and along the way became most-known for trash talking division ruler Joe Calzaghe, the lineal champion at 168 who eventually went up to 175 and claimed that championship, too. In December 2008, a month after what turned out to be Calzaghe's final fight, Froch took on Jean Pascal in Nottingham, winning a great 12-round fight and claiming the vacant WBC belt, which Calzaghe had given up.
After that, Froch headed to the States, defending his belt in Connecticut against former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. Though Taylor outboxed Froch early and even floored him in the third round, "The Cobra" came on strong in the end, proving to have more stamina and willpower than Taylor. In a furious 12th round assault, Froch decked Taylor, and then immediately went on the attack when Jermain made it back to his feet. Referee Mike Ortega had no choice but to step in with just 14 seconds remaining in the fight. Had Taylor survived on his feet, he would have won a split decision. If you've never seen it (or just want to watch it again), here's the exhausted Froch closing the show on Taylor in Connecticut:
Then came the Super Six. Froch met Andre Dirrell in Nottingham, and fighting back at home he engaged in an ugly, sloppy fight where Froch fouled a ton and Dirrell ran a lot. Bad Left Hook scored it for Dirrell, and many did the same. But the official judges matter the most, of course, and Froch left with a controversial split decision victory. In April of this year, Froch was defeated by Mikkel Kessler in a back-and-forth brawl that showed both men at their best. Kessler won a narrow decision, reclaiming the WBC belt he'd lost in 2007 to Calzaghe.
Abraham went pro in 2003, starting as a middleweight. He started winning minor trinkets in 2004, and the Armenian-born Abraham, fighting exclusively in Germany, scored a notable win over Howard Eastman in July 2005. Five months later, he claimed the vacant IBF middleweight title with a fifth round knockout of Kingsley Ikeke. He defended successfully against Shannan Taylor and Kofi Jantuah, before facing Edison Miranda in September 2006. In a highly controversial fight, Abraham survived a broken jaw to win a 12-round decision. Successful defenses against Sebastian Demers, Khoren Gevor, Wayne Elcock, and Elvin Ayala followed, and then Abraham made his U.S. debut by knocking out Miranda in four rounds in Florida. Abraham held on to his belt for three more defenses against Raul Marquez, Lajuan Simon and Mahir Oral before moving up in weight to enter the Super Six.
In the first stage of the tournament, Abraham had home court against Jermain Taylor. In the 12th round of what was a pretty routine, by-the-books performance from both men, Abraham suddenly shot a vicious right hand between Taylor's gloves and knocked the former middleweight champ out -- Taylor hasn't fought since. In March of this year, Abraham went to Detroit and lost for the first time as a pro, getting out-boxed by Andre Dirrell before a late charge from "King Arthur" put the result in doubt. And then, with Dirrell having slipped on the canvas, Abraham knocked him out with a right hand foul, and was disqualified. Dirrell also hasn't fought since, and pulled out of the tournament a couple of months ago.
This Saturday, Froch and Abraham meet in Helsinki. After much wrangling over where the fight would be held -- Froch refused to go to Germany, Abraham refused to go to Nottingham -- the Hartwall Arena was agreed upon as a neutral site. They also postponed the bout at one point, which seemed to be as much politicking as anything with the future of the tournament in doubt. As it stands now, both Froch and Abraham will be in the semifinals of the tournament barring injury. And they could meet in a rematch after this.
Grading the Fighters
Both have good power, but Abraham has that rare one-punch, concussive power in his right hand, and probably an underrated left at this point, too. Ask Jermain Taylor about the right, and Khoren Gevor about the left:
Abraham doesn't throw enough for most peoples' tastes, and neutralizes what hand speed he does have with his high guard defense. Abraham is very prone to lulls in action, and is a notorious slow starter. Froch is no speed merchant, but he can get his shots off in combination pretty well, and he'll have to to penetrate Abraham's guard. That hands down swagger of Froch's could haunt him in this fight -- defensively, he's lacking, and he gets hit plenty. Both have plenty of heart; I tick Abraham down a bit because of some of his habits in the ring, which cropped up big time in the Dirrell fight. We'll talk more about that in the prediction section below.
Two top ten fighters in one of the hottest divisions in boxing, and a tournament bout in the Super Six at that. The Super Six has lost a lot of steam and isn't going to wind up being the great thing for boxing it could have been, but remember this. Almost every time out, the fights in the tournament are interesting or noteworthy, the lone exception being Andre Ward's predictable domination of Allan Green.
Good Fight Potential:
This has really good potential to be a good fight, but not can't miss potential, if you ask me. Abraham's fights are rarely all that exciting, as he plays hide-and-seek and looks to launch his power shots when he finds the time, and doesn't often get caught up in exchanges. And Froch is willing to make a fight as ugly as he needs to, which can lead to a lot of holding and fouling. I know many think this has explosive potential, but I think it probably has just as much potential to be a sloppy half-brawl. Being the optimist that I am, I keep it high-end on the potential and choose to be glass mostly full here.
Overall Pre-Fight Score:
It's a very good fight. Make sure you tune in on Saturday, either live or on the Showtime tape delay or on your DVR or whatever.
Let's get right to that Abraham's habits bit: Abraham complains profusely about body shots, apparently feeling that anything under his chest should be ruled a low blow. He's been catered to in Germany with this, but found himself ignored in Detroit against Dirrell. Don't think Froch hasn't noticed how much Abraham hates being hit to the body. Froch is a smarter fighter than he gets credit for sometimes. He'll war when he needs to, but he's arguably strongest on the mental side of things. He can get under his opponent's skin, and Abraham may be the type of guy he can really bother. If Froch targets the body -- or even strays a little low early -- and Abraham doesn't have his complaints heard by the referee, Froch will go there all day long.
It's a very intriguing style matchup because really, I don't think either guy is particularly better than his opponent, but they're entirely different fighters. Abraham's shell defense is maddening for most who face him, but Froch loves to let loose looping shots, and might be just the type of guy to get around Abraham's guard. At the same time, Abraham may well find Froch easy pickings for his right hand bombs. If Froch gets overly aggressive trying to score, Abraham could find an opening with relative ease and turn the lights out on Carl's party.
Abraham has faced aggressive fighters before, notably Edison Miranda. The Miranda that broke Abraham's jaw in 2006 was a lot better than the Miranda that Abraham starched in 2008, and closer to what Froch can do. But what Edison does lack in basically everything else, he's always at least kind of made up for with some nasty, brutal KO power. Froch does not have that sort of power; not the 2006 Miranda, whose spirit hadn't yet been broken by Kelly Pavlik, and not the 2008 Miranda, who had been beaten up and exposed as a very limited fighter. Froch also tends to empty his tank and wind up fighting on fumes in the late rounds. Abraham never presses himself. I'm reminded of a line in Goodfellas when I think of Abraham: "Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody." Abraham will wait, and wait, and wait, and strike when he feels comfortable. He's never tried to impress anyone with his workrate, but he does try to impose his will.
To date, only two fighters have ever given Abraham any serious trouble: Miranda in 2006, and Dirrell in March. I suppose if you mashed those two fighters together, you could argue that Carl Froch is a decent end result of that process. Froch is a fairly athletic fighter, has pretty good power, and is a lot more dynamic than Abraham. But almost everyone is more dynamic than Abraham. King Arthur has made a hell of a career out of being really good at two things: knocking guys out with a right hand and making sure he doesn't get hit flush very often.
It's a really tough fight to pick. Some are very comfortable picking Abraham and his power, some feel Froch is an absolute stylistic nightmare for him. I'm not convinced about either. I've put myself in the position where I think Froch is the right guy to crumble Abraham's wall with those wide shots, but more often when I try to envision the fight in my mind this week, I'm seeing a tired Froch having not made enough headway in breaking down his opponent getting blasted with one of those big shots from a still-strong Abraham. It won't be a pretty fight, but it should be a pretty entertaining affair. Abraham TKO-11