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OPINION: You all got here too late: Carl Froch's long journey to the limelight

Carl Froch has arguably had the best career of recent British fighters, and he'll gladly argue that point himself. But he's not reached the level of fame of many of his contemporaries and other modern fighters in the UK. Why?

Scott Heavey

This is a guest post by Andy Ryan.

"I haven't had the recognition I deserve. You can go back to anybody's career - Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, David Haye, Amir Khan, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Naseem Hamed. My record is better than all of theirs."

Since Ricky Hatton's first retirement, Carl Froch has been Britain's top pound-for-pound boxer. He is loved in his hometown of Nottingham and respected by British boxing fans. And yet his achievements have not made him a national sporting hero. Calzaghe and Hatton made that leap. Everyone knew when they were fighting. Calzaghe won and Hatton came third in the 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the Year; Froch has never been nominated. Froch fought Kessler in front of 18,000 at the O2; Calzaghe fought Lacey in front of 50,000 in Cardiff while 55,000 saw Hatton defeat Lazcano in Manchester.

Froch's victory over George Groves has given him the widespread recognition that he's long craved but not of the sort he deserves. In the eyes of many, Froch goes to Wembley a villain. He must wish the country had been watching when he stunned Jermain Taylor, getting off the canvas to stop the American with fourteen seconds remaining. He deserved fame for his five round destruction of the previously unbeaten Lucian Bute. Instead, he's found infamy, slammed as having stolen victory from Groves and derided for seeming reluctant to grant a rematch.

Much like Tim Bradley after his victory over Pacquiao, Froch has been vilified for a decision he didn't make. The referee denied Groves a chance to recover but he also denied Froch, a strong finisher, the chance to complete a famous comeback. While the criticism will hurt, Froch will be far more anxious about the signs of ageing. Hopelessly pedestrian for so long against Groves, he looked like what he is: a thirty-six year old who's been through brutal fights. The wear and tear may prevent him from showing his best to the biggest crowd of his life.

"The Cobra" is the kind of boxer fans are supposed to love. He has an unusual but compelling style, a mix of backfoot patience and hot-blooded ambushes, all backed up with a chin that could stop tanks. It all but guarantees exciting fights. While many paper champions cautiously build up empty records, Froch has ducked no-one. Before Groves, he hasn't had a big domestic rivalry in the style of Eubank-Benn but then neither did Calzaghe or Hatton. It's hard to grasp what it is that has stopped the public from taking him to heart.

You could forgive Froch for looking at Groves with envy. Froch has earned his place in the biggest British fight in a generation through a long career spent fighting the best; Groves is just 26 and without a single big name win. Froch has taken more punishment in a single round than Groves has in his career. While Froch has had to fight off accusations of being a crude brawler, Groves has the effortless pace and poise of a natural boxer. And he's not just slicker inside the ring. The young West Londoner has relished the trash talk for both fights, cracking out witty one-liners and leaving Froch looking awkward. Perhaps Froch wouldn't have it any other way; he seems to take pride in doing things the hard way.

A decisive win for Froch would guarantee his legacy and a career finale super-fight against Andre Ward would beckon. But if he loses, it could be a defeat that overshadows all he has achieved. Groves will be the hero and many will see Froch as just a name on the new golden boy's record.

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