Boxing interview: Upon revealing his opponent for the first defence of his IBF title, the Nottingham fighter catches up with the Star to discuss his future career plans.
Question: After a long spell on the road, you were at home when you beat Lucian Bute to win the world title in May. How much of an advantage is it going to be being at home against Yusaf Mack?
Carl Froch: I'm very pleased it's in Nottingham. It's nice to be surrounded by homely comforts and be only 10 minutes from the arena. No different hotel rooms, air conditioning or fire alarms going off. So yeah it's an advantage and when you've got the crowd cheering for you as opposed to booing for you it's a big help, so I'm looking forward to relishing in that advantage again.
Q: What kind of fighter is Yusaf Mack?
CF: I haven't got a clue! I haven't seen him fight. I don't know who he is, but I do know that he's ranked at number four in the world a light-heavyweight. So he's obviously a great fighter and one who will bring an extra 20 per cent because he's fighting me. You know, this is his chance now to become IBF world champion at super-middleweight. So he's not going to turn up and roll over. He's going to turn up and mean business. I've not seen much of him. I've seen him against Tavoris Cloud and I've seen a little bit of him against Glengoffe Johnson so I know what to expect but, like I say, he'll be motivated fighting me. It's a world title fight and he's going to come and mean business. If I turn up anything less than 100 per cent ready, I could come unstuck.
Q: Was your win over Lucian Bute the best of your career?
CF: I think when you take into account the occasion and the atmosphere, and everything that goes alongside beating Bute, then on the whole I'd say it was the best night in my career, yes. Best performance? Best win? Probably not. Who knows? He was undefeated...undefeated in 30 fights, 24 wins by knockout. It was very satisfying because a lot of people including all the British press, all the bookies, all the Yanks, everybody thought I was going to get beat. And I won the fight — and I didn't just win it, I won it easily. It was a really one-sided performance, so it was really satisfying from that point of view. Then when you take into account the crowd, the home crowd, the fact that I was at home at a sold-out 10,000-seater arena, then that adds to it and makes it one of the best nights of my boxing career.
Q: You said before the Bute fight that if you lost you would have retired. Did you mean that?
CF: I don't talk for the sake of talking and I don't tell lies so of course I meant it.
Q: If you could fight any boxer from any era who would it be?
CF: Any boxer from any era? No-one really jumps to mind. I'm not one of those to say I want to fight Sugar Ray Robinson or Roy Jones Jnr or Mike Tyson. It would have to be a super-middleweight and it would probably have to be Joe Calzaghe. From my era, it's the fight that never happened. You know, Joe Calzaghe was ranked number one in the world and he was the best super-middleweight fighter ever, never defeated, so that was the fight for me, it slipped through the net. So if I could fight anybody it would be him. So if he wants to come out of retirement and make a few million quid he knows who to call.
Q: Is fighting at Nottingham Forest's City Ground still a possibility?
CF: Yeah, next year if the Bute rematch doesn't happen, we'll get Mikkel Kessler over or even if the Bute rematch does happen in Montreal in Canada the next fight after that in the summer could be Kessler at the Nottingham Forest City Ground which would be fantastic.
Q: Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn jumped in the ring prematurely in the Lucian Bute fight. Have you laughed at him since?
CF: Yeah, I've taken the piss, had a wind-up. He lost the plot but rightly so. He's passionate about sport. He's made an investment in me and that night we proved a lot of doubters wrong and then set up for the rest of my career, because he knew what I was feeling about losing that fight and potentially retiring so he was sort of like, not sweating, but looking at it like: "I don't want Froch to retire. I want more big fights. I know he's got what it takes to dominate at world level for a couple more years." So it meant a lot not just to me but to Eddie, and you could see the passion he had when he jumped in the ring on the night.
Q: Could he have got you disqualified?
CF: Actually no he couldn't. It doesn't matter (if the fight wasn't over when he jumped in the ring.) It's got to be a registered corner man to get in the ring for you to be disqualified. As he wasn't a licenced cornerman, second or coach, you can't get disqualified.
Q: Eddie Hearn must have known that?
CF: I don't know if he knew that or not, but you can't get disqualified. Would (trainer) Rob McCracken have jumped in or a cuts man, then I could have got disqualified but not Eddie.
Q: Quite a few fringe fans might say, who's this guy (Mack) you're fighting? He's not the usual big name that we're used to...
CF: Mikkel Kessler didn't want the rematch. Lucian Bute didn't want the rematch. (Thomas) Oosthuizen, who's next in line for the IBF, didn't want to fight, so we've got a number four ranked, world ranked, light-heavyweight. If that's an easy fight, you (should) take up boxing and get yourself ranked number four in the world and see how easy it is, and then come and fight Carl Froch. There's no such thing as an easy fight and anyone who's ranked top five in the world, it's not easy. And to be honest, I've not heard much of that really. Everyone's saying: "Good fight, fair enough." Apart from the odd twit on Twitter. Other than that, really people are seeing it for what it is. It's a potentially stern test but someone that I should deal with comfortably but the minute I start thinking: "This is going to be a steady fight," that's the minute I'm going to get beat. So I've got to turn up, 100 per cent meticulously prepared like I was for Bute. So I've got 12 weeks of hell ahead of me and I'm not looking forward to it if I'm being honest.
Q: You're 35 now and showing no signs of slowing down...
CF: Just for Men does that for me!
Q: Do you see yourself in this for the long-term or can you see the finish line now?
CF: I can't really see the finish line, no. If I start seeing the finish line, that's when I'll take my foot of the gas. As long as I can still perform at the top level — and I'm not just talking about in the ring, I also mean in the gym. If I can turn up to the gym and do my 12 rounds. If I can do my circuit work, my strength and conditioning, still get up in the morning and motivate myself to do these hard runs. As long as I'm still doing that and enjoying it and I've still got the desire, I'll keep boxing until I'm 45. I don't think realistically I'm going to box for another 10 years. But if the mind's willing and the body's able, then I'll continue to box for as long as I can because I love this sport and you're a long time retired.
Q: What's your hunch with the Bute rematch?
CF: I think the fight will happen, because it's going to be in his home town in Montreal next year. I think he wants a bit of a confidence boost. So he's fighting this fight in November (against Denis Grachev) to get himself ready and reared up for this rematch. So I'm looking forward to it.
Q: If that fight does go ahead, will it be a case of using the same gameplan that worked so well in May?
CF: I've just got to make sure that I turn up super fit and in great shape like I did last time. I think tactically, I got the tactics smack on, but he'll do something this time to try and dominate that. So I have to have a plan B still, but the bottom line is that I'm just too tough and too strong for Bute, because I was able to soak up his punches, walk through them and then hurt him. So regardless of what he's doing technically, how he's moving, what he's doing fiddling around with his jab or if he's moving his back foot more and starts ducking down and holding when I'm up close like (Andre) Ward was, I just think that I'll be too strong for him and I'll be able to push him off me. I can hit him with hard shots. He has the loss in his mind still. He'll still have that in his head, so how he's going to get over that mentally, I don't know. It's a difficult fight for him.
Q: Are you disappointed not to fight Kessler this year or are you happy to wait until next year?
CF: I'm disappointed really. I'd love to fight Kessler for my next fight. The sooner I fight Kessler the better. Like I said earlier, I'm not getting any younger. I still feel young and fresh, but the sooner I fight Kessler the better. It's the fight I want to avenge. It's a fight that will hopefully be in the Nottingham Forest City Ground next summer.
Q: Did Kessler's people give a reason why they didn't take the fight this year?
CF: I think Kessler was asking for too much money. I don't think particularly he wants the fight, so that's probably why he's asked for too much money. But if we can get it on at Nottingham Forest's City Ground and get Sky Sports and they back it up with pay-per-view, then we could afford to pay him. But for me it's not about money, it's about the fight. I want to avenge that loss and I think it's a fight that armchair fans, the real boxing fans and the general public as well, want to see. It's almost as big as what my fight with Calzaghe would have been, because that's a massive fight. If we can get Calzaghe out of his armchair, let's get that fight on! For some reason, I just know that fight would sell out anywhere. It would be just massive. It's a shame that never happened really.
Q: Is Andre Ward someone you still think about?
CF: Not really. Ward's a boring fighter. He does what he does well. It's hard for me to talk about Ward without sounding bitter or being overly critical or with people say: "You've just got the hump." Honestly I'm not bothered — I lost to Ward fair and square. I got beat by the better man on the night. What Ward does is very effective. It's also very boring. He produces the results. He gets the win. He doesn't get the fans going, he doesn't get television excited. Unfortunately boxing is an entertainment business. It's a sport firstly and foremost, but it's an entertainment business. Now if you're not entertaining when you're in the business of entertainment, like boxing is, then you're not going to put bums on seats or get television companies putting the money up or excite the fans and keep boxing where it needs to be. Sure, Andre Ward will beat you but he will bore you death and he'll bore the audience to death. No-one's calling for the Ward rematch. I'd like to fight Ward, but before that I've got the Bute rematch, I've got the Mikkel Kessler fight that I want and I've got Yusaf Mack to take care of first. That's my focus at the minute, but if Ward wants to climb in, then come to England. I came to America to fight you, come to England to fight me and we'll see a different result.
Q: Where you put yourself on a list of all-time great British fighters?
CF: I've been ranked recently by the BBC as being the best pound-for-pound British fighter. That's the latest BBC rankings, but it's not for me to say where I am ranked pound for pound. I'm in the top 10 in the world pound for pound as well. That's where I'd put myself. I'd listen to the experts and put myself right where they do. I'm obviously not pound for pound best in the world. Am I pound for pound best in Britain? Potentially. I'm currently ranked number one in Britain. I'm not going to argue with it. Do I deserve a world ranking like Floyd Mayweather? Of course I don't. Floyd Mayweather's never been beaten, though he came close to losing to (Jose Luis) Castillo once. There's an argument that he lost that fight. A lot of people think he did. But I'm happy with where I'm ranked and where people put me pound for pound. I deserve to be (there). Yeah, I've lost, which knocks it down, but I've fought the best of the best, and that's the difference. It's not about retiring undefeated when you've fought nobody. My girlfriend Rachel, she's undefeated. She had one fight and one win. I don't think anyone talks about her in boxing. They talk about her in bikinis but not boxing! It's not always about retiring undefeated. Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard...they've all got losses, but they're all legends. Muhammad Ali. So Carl Froch is hopefully gonna be up there on the list when he retires. I think I deserve to be, that's for sure.
Q: How much credit does your trainer Rob McCracken deserve for the success of Team GB at London 2012?
CF: He deserves all the credit because he's trained all the lads and the girls. He's been there day in and day out with them all on the pads. He's the performance director and I'm there working with him and I see him. He stands, he works the floor and he tells the trainers what to tell them, and he tells what to do. He's in their corner when they're sparring and he's on the track when they're running. He's checking their technique and checking them when they're on the pads, talking to them and letting them know what to do and what not to do. It's a team effort and all the other coaches are brilliant . But they all feed off Rob. Rob's the main man — he's the reason it all happens, so he deserves every credit. He should get an MBE or something. It's his dedication to the sport, it's the commitment he's put in to bring the success and achievement. You know, them medals, the extra medals he brought to the table for the Olympics, that needs some acknowledgement that does. He's an unsung hero, Rob is.
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