BOXING OPINION: While not quite thought to be shot his best days were probably behind him. The yearning to prove he could stand toe to toe with the elite appeared to have finally caught up with him.
At least that was the general consensus ahead of Carl Froch's attempt to become a three-time world champion just over a week ago.
The past battles coupled with the present challenge of facing an undefeated if largely untested Lucian Bute set the fight scribes in motion and the verdict was unanimous.
Even though the 34-year-old Cobra would be cheered on by a buoyant hometown following, the penned predictors joined the bookmakers in writing the Nottingham warrior off.
Bute came to these shores with an impressive 30-0 log and his statistics were elevated further by Froch coming off the comprehensive super six final loss to Andre Ward.
However from the first bell it was obvious Froch was in a different league to the IBF ruler. With a reputation as a slow starter Froch surprised and delighted the onlookers by switching into high-speed mode and quickly bullied Bute onto the back foot.
The Canadian had no answer and must have been wishing he was more proven than protected in his 30 contests.
With the onslaught continuing a brave Bute soon succumbed and before the end of five rounds Froch had secured his name among the greats ripping both the belt and the unbeaten record from a fighter who Boxing Monthly had amazingly ranked the leading super-middleweight.
In the wake of his triumph Froch was catapulted into the mainstream. His long-awaited crossover appeal suddenly saw him the centre of primetime national radio and TV shows.
Presenters and commentators alike paid tribute to what they described as one of the greatest displays by a British boxer.
Despite their deserving applause the tone was still one of great surprise. Yet through the eyes of hindsight, should we have been more shocked than surprised that Froch was foolishly dismissed.
One should carefully consider - why Bute was installed as the pre-fight favourite?
Admittedly Froch had been soundly beaten by Andre Ward, but he is an exceptional fighter and seems to have the tools that will keep him unbeaten for many years.
A wide reverse to a highly skilled champion shouldn't have so easily erased from the memory all of the outstanding performances beforehand in overcoming the likes of Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson.
Furthermore we had seen this type of scenario before when Joe Calzaghe defended his world crown against the supposedly fearsome Jeff Lacy in 2006.
The undefeated US pugilist was seen as the man to end the Welshman's long reign with some even labelling him as the new Mike Tyson, but Calzaghe produced a career-best performance, dominating Lacy to win every round.
Froch has longed for widespread respect and recognition ever since claiming the vacant WBC prize against Pascal in 2008.
And the gloved chronicles can find few who have consecutively fought world-class opponents like Froch. Beaming with supreme confidence Carl has since claimed to be the best British 168lb man in history, outshining top predecessors Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins and Calzaghe.
Carl was economical in his proclamation, refusing to state he was the better fighter, yet was bold in boasting his achievements surpass all the British super-middleweights before him.
It's the kind of comment that will no doubt have fans fighting their respective opinionated corners.
Calzaghe holds the ultimate record of 46-0 and outclassed Mikkel Kessler, the only other man to defeat Froch, but some still pose doubt on his credentials suggesting he faced a number of sub-standard challengers.
Meanwhile Benn, Eubank and Collins had a total of six battles, with Collins beating them both twice. The Irishman served his tough schooling by challenging the prime Mike McCallum and the formidable Sambu Kalamby before joining Benn and Eubank as a two-weight world champion.
Benn and Eubank were bitter rivals with contrasting styles. Benn loved a tear-up, while Eubank the master of provocation often frustrated with his heavy doses of posing.
The Dark Destroyer sparkled most with his devastating wins over US duo Iran Barkley and Gerald McCellan. Eubank's best night came when he stopped Benn in the first of their two bouts.
Froch, now 29-2, could put any doubt about his recent boast to flight if he can beat Ward in a rematch and add further weight to his legacy by moving up to light-heavyweight and bagging another title.
He is also intent on settling the score with Kessler who was fortunate to win a close decision in April 2010.
It remains to be seen where Froch will ultimately rank in world 12st history, but two things remain sure.
Froch is a top-notch proven world champion who only fights the premier players.
We could be calling him the master.
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