Next Saturday in the gambling haven of Atlantic City, New Jersey, the stakes could not be higher for Britain’s Carl Froch as he takes on the 42-year-old veteran Glen Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs), for place in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Nottingham’s Froch (27-1, 23 KOs) is coming off a career-best performance against the Armenian slugger Arthur Abraham (32-3, 26 KOs) in November and will enter the ring on 4 June as the heavy favourite against his experienced opponent.
But make no mistake, Johnson – fondly known as ‘the Road Warrior’ for his willingness to travel to his opponent’s home town at short notice – will provide a stiff test for the WBC super-middleweight champion.
World class opposition
The former light-heavyweight titlist may have 15 defeats on his record, but he has only been stopped once in a stellar 67-fight career in which he has mixed it with some world class opposition. Since he entered the professional ranks 18 years ago, Johnson has beaten the likes of Roy Jones Jnr, Antonio Tarver and Clinton Woods and taken heralded American prospects such as Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud the distance, ending up on the wrong side of some close decisions.
Johnson only entered the Super Six in September last year after Froch’s conqueror Mikkel Kessler was forced to drop out with an eye injury. The Miami-based Jamaican jumped at the chance to take on the best in the loaded super-middleweight division and went on to stop another late replacement, Allan Green (who stepped in for Jermain Taylor), in his first fight in Showtime’s injury-hit tournament, which ultimately proved enough to book a semi-final berth against Froch.
Because of his advancing years, Johnson has nothing to lose and everything to gain from his eagerly awaited showdown with ‘The Cobra’. A win over an opponent nine-years his junior would not only cement Johnson’s legacy in the sport, but also guarantee him a huge payday in the tournament decider in the autumn. In other words, this fight represents the last roll of the dice for the Road Warrior: lose, and he is unlikely to get another significant fight at this stage of his career; win, and Johnson will remain in the mix with the top fighters in the division.
State of mind
Froch’s hopes of a unification clash in the Super Six final with the unbeaten American Andre Ward (24-0,13 KOs) will depend on whether he takes Johnson’s challenge seriously. The Nottingham native cannot afford to be complacent and look beyond a seasoned opponent who has learned every trick in the book in a career spanning three decades.
Froch’s sole defeat to date, at the hands of the ‘Viking Warrior’ Mikkel Kessler in his second bout in the tournament, was largely down to the Englishman taking his foot off the gas in the later rounds in the belief that he was up on the scorecards. To this day, Froch still believes he did enough to win that memorable battle in Herning, Denmark. But he also knows he cannot afford to leave it to chance again.
In the build up to the fight, Froch has made encouraging noises about his state of mind and he claims he is 100 per cent focused on Johnson, for whom he has expressed his upmost respect during the promotional tour.
He told BBC Radio Nottingham: “I can’t take the wily old fox lightly. He’s a serious threat.
“He’s been in with the best of them and has only mixed it at top level so I’m taking it very seriously. I need to get my mind focused.”
Froch also acknowledged that the chance to pick up a world title in the twilight years of his career would give Johnson extra motivation on the night, and that at 42, his opponent was in “the last-chance saloon”.
All these ingredients make Johnson an extremely dangerous opponent and boxing fans can no doubt look forward to an exciting showdown in New Jersey next weekend.
Should Froch emerge victorious on Saturday night, he will soon have to switch his attention to fighter six-years his junior in the shape of 27-year-old Andre Ward.
Like Froch, Ward is coming off a dominant points victory over Abraham, and the American has established himself as the tournament favourite following a series of classy performances.
The Olympic Gold medallist claims he doesn’t mind who he faces in the tournament decider, even if he believes most boxing fans would like to see him take on the ‘The Cobra’.
He said: “I think the fans want to see me and Froch because number one, he’s from England and I’m from the United States and there have been rivalries between these two countries over the years.
“Number two, we’re two guys who started out in the tournament. We’ve both endured setbacks and we’ve endured the hardships that have come along with this tournament and we’re still standing.
“I just think from a fans’ standpoint there is a lot of excitement for Ward-Froch. But, at the same time, Johnson is going to try to have something to say about that on June 4.
That’s certainly true, but if Froch can replicate the performance he produced in Finland against the heavy-handed Abraham, where he used his jab beautifully to stay out of range of his opponent’s power shots and carve out a wide points victory, then he should have enough to see off his wily old opponent.
But the ‘Road Warrior’ has shocked the world before, as Roy Jones Jnr will attest, so expect him to come out swinging as he looks to score big in Atlantic City and end Froch’s dreams of unifying the division.
Knockoutpunch prediction – Froch by decision