Marking time is not something Carl Froch has been used to over the last few years, but tomorrow night he joins the rest of the prizefight fraternity and tries his hand at it when he faces delicate Yusaf Mack at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
This fight is little more than a showcase for Froch and—more important, perhaps, for those who tune in—Rachel Cordingley. Six months ago, Froch treated Lucian Bute shabbily for a handful of rounds before dumping him headfirst into a dustbin and scoring an emphatic fifth-round TKO in a fight that was expected to be slightly more taxing for “The Cobra.” A little billingsgate was all that was missing from Froch to complete the humiliation. But, inexplicably, that fight was not picked up by either of the major premium networks in the U.S. After providing Showtime with years of quality entertainment, Froch, 29-2 (21), makes his second consecutive start without American fanfare. Not even Epix will be around, with its dodgy “free trial” webcasts, a penny-pinching remote studio set-up, and its narcissistic color commentator. This time, Froch can only be seen in the States via Integrated pay-per-view, a curious position for a man whose resume trumps that of most American headliners.
In England, fights are still made, more or less, based on the premise that people will buy tickets and gather around the telly. Contrast that to the American model, where the Big Money is found between the ears of Ken Hershman and Stephen Espinoza. And to get to these rarefied but wildly remunerative zones, a fighter must first pass through a tollbooth manned in shifts by Al Haymon and Richard Schaefer. Although Yusaf Mack is not a world-class fighter, it is possible that Eddie Hearn could have produced a better opponent with U.S. television backing. As it is, Froch, Nottingham, England, will face his first easy touch since he played “Crash, Bang, Wallop” with Albert Rybacki in 2008.
Talent was never a question when Yusaf Mack first ran off a 22-0-2 record after turning pro in 2000. Since then, however, he has been as steady as a bell buoy in a whirlpool. But Mack has done what so many fighters—particularly those without the proper connections—do in an age where there are more champions and title fights than there are rings to hold them in: He waited around until somebody dialed his number. Now sporting a record of 31-4-2 (17), Mack has not defeated a notable opponent since he notched a decision over Chris Henry in 2009, and Henry is the kind of fighter who would be better off branding a mastodon thighbone in each hand instead of gloves.
Knocked out four times in career, Mack, 32, is notoriously brittle. Not only does Mack fall apart round after round in most of his big fights, but he does so with an aplomb he rarely shows when winning. Mack seems to know when he reaches his threshold and, like any athlete in tune with his body, he begins to react accordingly. He slows down little by little and then, suddenly, everything falls apart all at once. Mack, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, slips to the canvas, staggers around, gets floored, wings one wide punch after another, and adopts a general air of doom and despair. Years ago, Mack blamed making weight (among other goblins) for his lack of resilience and stamina. Now, over five years since his last appearance at super middleweight, Mack is back at 168 pounds. There is no sense quite like nonsense in boxing, and, most of the time, it is the only kind of sense that seems to exist. In fact, if boxing had a patron saint, it would probably be Edward Lear. Only Mack knows whether he took this fight with an honest effort in mind, or whether he is simply looking for one last bruising payday.
Still ungainly, still slow, and still a technical eyesore, Froch, 35, makes up for his deficiencies with every attribute a world-class prizefighter needs to succeed: drive, resiliency, determination, stamina, smarts, discipline, power, and a chin as hard as fieldstone from Mattersey Priory. Add an edgy personality—something like Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, say—and you are looking at an authentic professional prizefighter who will likely not suffer a letdown come fight night—the only real hope Mack has once the opening bell rings. “I’m a massive odds-on favorite,” Froch told The Guardian, “but if I took him for granted, I would be foolish. I’ve trained hard for 12 weeks. I prepare for every fight the same. I’m not looking past Yusaf Mack, and, if I see an opening in round two or three, I’m going to jump on him.” In that case, bet the under hard and hope that Froch marks time with less enthusiasm than most of his contemporaries do.
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