Froch could be Super Six sleeper

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! SportsOctober 15, 2009

There is no one even remotely close to being a star from the U.S. in Showtime's "Super Six" super middleweight tournament, which begins with a pair of fights in Europe on Saturday.

The closest would be Jermain Taylor, by virtue of a pair of wins four years ago over Bernard Hopkins, but it's a stretch to call Taylor a star. Taylor's lost three of his last four fights, is largely inaccessible to the media outside of designated periods before bouts and doesn't have the kind of personality that makes people want to rally behind him.

At best, he's the most well-known fighter to American fans at this stage.

Fortunately – hopefully – that's about to change. If all goes right, the tournament will create a legitimate star. That's the kind of thing that will happen when a guy defeats as many as five elite opponents in roughly an 18-month span on national television.

Becoming a star in boxing is a bit more elusive than it is in other sports, however. If you don't believe that, consider the strange case of Sven Ottke.

Ottke is one of the two greatest super middleweights who have ever lived. He retired unbeaten. The last 22 fights of his career were for at least one major world championship belt.

Yet, he's on the ballot for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for the first time this year and he faces a difficult battle to be elected. Barry McGuigan is in the Hall of Fame, largely because he had charisma and a pleasing style, though he had far, far less talent than Ottke.

Yet, Ottke is by no means a slam dunk for induction despite a 34-0 record and a 22-0 mark in world title bouts.

Clearly, in boxing, it takes more than just success in the ring to become a star. A "Super Six" championship would help immensely, but there is an elusive quality to stardom that is hard to quantify but you know it when you see it.

And if anyone has it, it may be Carl Froch. There are a lot of things that the unbeaten Englishman, who meets American Andre Dirrell on Saturday in Nottingham, England, is that the 25-0 Froch is not.

He's not the fastest or quickest man in the field.

He's not the most technical.

He's not the most athletically gifted.

And he's probably not the strongest.

What he is, though, is a fighter, a determined, press-forward guy who wrings every last ounce out of his ability. He's a guy whose whole is greater than the sum of his parts. He's like the factory worker who punches the clock, puts in a hard eight hours and then stays a while longer after his shift to make certain everything is just right.

It doesn't come easy to him, just like surviving day-to-day doesn't come easy to most people, but he grits his teeth, works hard and finds a way to beat men more physically gifted.

He's like that slot receiver in football who is a step slow, but has glue on his hands, is a precise route runner and gets up with a smile after the biggest collisions.

You can't help but root for a guy like that. That's the kind of guy Froch is, too.

"All I've been concentrating on is doing my work right," Froch said. "I've had a great camp; my running's been brilliant, so I'm super fit. My heart rate's down where it wants to be. My weight is down. I was already a pound inside the (168-pound) limit when I woke up this morning so that won't be a problem. I'm eating good food, I'm feeling very strong and I've done some real damage in my sparring without mentioning any names. So I'm feeling as strong as ever and punching harder than ever."

Dirrell has taken to trash talking and the two had to be separated at Wednesday's news conference in Nottingham.

Dirrell, who won a bronze medal for the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics, hasn't been shy about getting in Froch's face. He's been outrageous at times as he's taunted Froch and predicted victory.

"Froch is going to discover on October 17 that his new world really is flat: Flat on his back," Dirrell said. "I'm going to expose him like a 'Page 3' pinup in The Sun. I've had my best training camp ever and I'm ready to shiver Froch's timbers from stem to stern.

"This is step one in showing that I am the heir apparent to the throne Joe Calzaghe vacated as the king of the super middleweight division, something Froch has never been able to achieve. I'm going to slam Froch from both sides of the plate. I'm going to go Mickey Mantle on him. Remember this: Carl Froch can kiss my Yankee Doodle."

Froch has largely avoided the war of words and said Wednesday, "The language has been bad, the banter has been terrible and I don't want to get involved in any of that nonsense."

What Froch wants to do is fight. And his style and the effort he puts into it, may be just what makes him the star to come out of this star-building event.