By Graham Houston
Photos: Pasi Taavitsainen
It’s not often that fights come along as intriguing as the one between Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham on SHOWTIME tonight. The network’s Super Six: World Boxing Classic tournament has had its setbacks, but a fight such as Froch-Abraham makes it all worthwhile. The betting odds have hardly changed. Abraham opened at around -160 and that is where he has remained apart from minor fluctuations. The over/under of 11.5 rounds at essentially even money indicates that the oddsmakers see this as a long, likely full-distance, fight.
What is so appealing about this 168-pound championship fight is that a strong case can be made for either man to win. This is when boxing is at its best, when two elite fighters meet with a strong element of doubt over the outcome.
Froch is taller, rangier and will no doubt be able to outscore and outmanoeuvre the much shorter Abraham in the early rounds. The question that concerns Froch backers is whether the British fighter will be able to stick to a disciplined, winning fight plan for round after round without getting involved in the sort of heavy exchanges that could be his undoing.
I have always maintained that Froch has greater boxing ability than generally realised, and he always exudes confidence. Froch has an “I’m the man” attitude and he has even mocked Abraham, ridiculing the Armenian-born German fighter’s hands-high style. Abraham says he will do his talking in the ring.
Opinions are divided on this fight. If you look purely at form, Froch should be favoured because he got the win over Andre Dirrell while Abraham lost to the American boxer. However, Abraham surely came much closer to knocking out Dirrell than Froch did. I feel that Dirrell would just about have survived to the final bell had Abraham not been disqualified, but it would have been a close call.
The worrying thing for Abraham backers is always going to be his slow start. He has said he plans to start faster than usual against Froch but I can’t see it happening — Abraham is too set in his ways to change now.
What we are likely to see is the usual Abraham strategy, advancing with hands high, blocking punches, gradually working his way into the distance at which he feels comfortable, then unloading his heavy-handed blows.
Froch can look very good in the early rounds on Saturday, moving around Abraham, letting punches go in bursts, banging to the body underneath Abraham’s elbows, using his long left hand not just to jab but also to hold off his tank-like adversary.
It does seem likely, though, that Abraham will at some stage be able to hit Froch with the big right hand, or perhaps with his underrated left hook. What happens when Froch gets caught? Froch is a tough, game and proud fighter. He doesn’t like to back down. I think it is quite likely that Froch will blast right back should he get rocked or rattled, and I believe it is when the punches are flying that Abraham will have his best chance of landing the flush shots that will test Froch’s granite chin.
Froch, with his style of boxing with hands low, has always been at risk of getting caught. He is so resilient that this has never been a serious problem, although the knockdown Froch suffered against Jermain Taylor showed that — as with almost all of history’s iron men of the ring — if he is hit exactly right, he will find himself on the canvas.
Abraham, to me, is the more regimented in his method, Froch is much more of a risk-taker. Froch will throw uppercuts when it isn’t technically safe to do so, he will sometimes swing himself off balance after spectacular misses, but he always seems well aware of what he is doing, almost daring the other man to come to him. Froch’s mindset seems to be: “I missed you that time but next time I’ll get you.” Yet while Froch can really hit, Abraham seems to be the fighter with the greater one-shot firepower. In the Dirrell camp the feeling is that Abraham is going to knock Froch out, with co-trainer Leon Lawson Jr. telling me: “Froch’s best chance of winning? His best chance is not to fight Arthur Abraham.” Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but Lawson was in the corner with Dirrell for the fights against Froch and Abraham and thus has what one could call an insider’s view.
When I previewed the fight for Boxing Monthly the venue was to have been balmy Monte Carlo, now the scene has shifted to frigid Helsinki. My first thoughts were Abraham by decision, feeling that his stonewall defence would allow him to weather Froch’s barrages while Froch’s willingness to gamble would see the British boxer getting hit by too many clear blows. I am sticking with Abraham but swaying more towards an inside-schedule outcome — the intensity and hostility level seems to me to have been ratcheted up a few notches in recent weeks, and that often means that the final bell will not be reached.
Visit fightwriter.com. In subscribers’ section: Wagering aspects of the fight discussed, plus previews of Marquez-Katsidis, Berto-Hernandez, Hatton-Belge and Ward-Bika and, of course, more to come.