Boxing

/ Features

  • Super Middleweight

The five leading contenders to fight Froch next

Michael Beattie
June 2, 2014
Carl Froch will not be short of challengers for his next fight - his own plans will dictate his opponent © PA Photos
Enlarge

It was, in Carl Froch's own words, a 'legacy fight'. He arrived in the ring with his legacy on the line and left with his reputation enhanced. This time, there was no doubt: George Groves, Froch's unfinished business, was emphatically scored off the list.

Beating Groves for a second time - in front of 80,000 delirious fight fans at Wembley, sealed with an eighth-round knockout that has been compared with the best Rocky Marciano ever mustered - has lifted the IBF and WBA super-middleweight champion to a new stratosphere. It may be the perfect point at which to sign off - Froch himself has admitted that retirement is "very much on the table" as he considers his future - but his stock is suddenly, finally, sky-high.

Buncey's Boxing Podcast: Froch, DeGale, Butler, Jennings

"I'm feeling unbelievably elated. This is the best moment in my boxing career," Froch said. "This is a legacy fight. My legacy was at stake. I didn't want to finish my career and be remembered in the biggest fight in British history as being the loser."

At 36, and with an estimated additional £10 million in the bank after his night's work at Wembley, all that remains for Froch is to leave the division in style. He has vowed to take the summer off before thinking about his next fight, but the Cobra will not find himself short of challengers when the time comes to plan his exit strategy - and he couldn't help but drop hints about his own thoughts on the subject.

"That, to me, would be hard to top, but I'd love to box in Las Vegas," Froch admitted afterwards. "It ticks a really special box for me. It's the fight capital of the world."

Now all he needs is an opponent, and his choice will be telling. Froch was planning a farewell tour after settling his score with Mikkel Kessler, before Groves ripped up the script in November. Had he lost to Groves, he later admitted, it would have been the end. Will he return to Plan A and bank one last moment of glory, or will he look for one last test? Here are five fighters who could share top billing:

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

Age: 28 Record: 48-1-1, 32 KOs Titles: Former WBC middleweight champion

Could it happen? If it wasn't for Groves' sense of injustice about the way his first encounter with Froch ended, we may have been wishing Froch a happy retirement after facing Chavez in Vegas by now. Back in January, Froch himself said the fight was "pretty much nailed-on" before the IBF ruled that he owed Saint George a rematch on account of Howard Foster's hasty stoppage in their first encounter. ESPN's Dan Rafael said the fight remains a distinct possibility, with Matchroom's Eddie Hearn contacting Chavez's promoter Top Rank in the days before the Groves rematch to discuss a showdown in the autumn.

Should it happen? Chavez ticks a lot of boxes for Froch. His name and following make a star-studded event in Las Vegas all but a formality, while the Mexican's style is fast and loose, much like his own. It's also a very winnable encounter, but whether the fight will enhance Froch's reputation is another matter. Chavez may share his illustrious father's name but lacks his speed and is yet to prove he can outbox a truly elite opponent.

Froch on Chavez: "Definitely. That's a big fight that could happen in Las Vegas"

Bottom line: Vegas, a hefty payday and a likely victory. Were it not for doubts about what beating Chavez adds to Froch's legacy, we could call off the search right here.

Andre Ward

Age: 30 Record: 27-0-0, 14 KOs Titles: Reigning WBA (Super) and The Ring super-middleweight champion, former WBC super-middleweight champion

Could it happen? Carl Froch has made no secret of his desire to settle the score with Andre Ward before he walks away from boxing. The American clamed Froch's WBC belt after a unanimous decision win in Atlantic City in 2011, just the second defeat of the Cobra's career. After he avenged the first, against Kessler - who has also thrown his hat into the ring for a third showdown - Ward said he would happily fight Froch at Wembley while on punditry duties with HBO.

"If I could avenge the Andre Ward loss - could you imagine that?" said Froch at the time. "The only two people to have beaten me are Kessler and Ward, so to beat them is the stuff dreams are made of. Beating Kessler is the first step on the road to redemption."

Should it happen? For all his technical artistry in the ring, Ward is a hard sell. While he remains in the conversation about the best pound-for-pound fighters, his style is cagey in the extreme and has been cited for limiting his box office appeal in the past, which may explain why, like Froch, he too has never boxed in Las Vegas.

Froch on Ward: "On my night I beat Ward, so that's got potential - he's the only guy out there that I've faced and not beaten. Unfortunately for Ward, it's not a big fight in America. People aren't that interested in him, which is a shame but you can see why."

Bottom line: A younger Froch with a few years ahead of him might be tempted to go back for more, but the risk-reward on Ward doesn't stack up - unless it's back at Wembley.

James DeGale

Age: 28 Record: 19-1-0, 13 KOs Titles: Reigning WBA Silver super-middleweight champion

Could it happen? Yes, if mandatory defences mean anything. Former Olympic gold-medalist DeGale knocked out Brandon Gonzales in the fourth round on the undercard of the Froch-Groves rematch - an IBF title eliminator that earned the winner a mandatory shot at the winner of the main event. "That's the one I want," DeGale told reporters on Saturday. "I always said that I am all wrong for Froch. I have huge respect for him, but when we fight I am very confident in beating him."

Should it happen? For a boxer who considered quitting the sport just a year ago, DeGale has come a long way. His decision to vacate the EBU super-middleweight belt in 2012 was taken to earn world title fights, and he's been nursing a knee injury since 2011. But while he insists he has the measure of Froch's style, another Battle of Britain after the double-header with George Groves - who handed DeGale his only defeat - is a hard sell.

Froch on DeGale: "The only reason we'd be discussing DeGale is because he's put himself in the mandatory position, to be honest - otherwise I wouldn't give him the time of day."

Bottom line: Rules are rules, but Froch is due a 'voluntary' belt defence and there has been talk of him vacating his IBF title, so it will be DeGale pushing for this one. A rematch with Groves might be the better option for Chunky.

Sakio Bika

Age: 35 Record: 32-5-3, 21 KOs Titles: Reigning WBC super-middleweight champion, former IBO super middleweight champion

Could it happen? One man who could certainly leave DeGale waiting for his shot at Froch is Bika. A super-middleweight unification fight would supersede a mandatory challenge, and the typically coy Bika hinted that talks were underway to make the fight happen.

"Whether we will fight is something that I will leave to my manager and Eddie Hearn to talk about, the Cameroonian-Australian told reporters at the weekend after appearing at the post-fight press conference. He later exchanged pleasantries with Froch, who believes the bout is a viable option.

Should it happen? With reigning WBO champion Arthur Abraham lining up a fight with Liverpool's Paul Smith, Bika - like Ward - offers a shot at one of the three remaining belts. Bika was less than impressive in his last bout, a draw with Anthony Dirrell in New York. It may not be the most enticing fight out there, but as a route to the US, another title and a bigger payday next year, Froch's interest is understandable.

Bottom line: Not the best option available to Froch in the short term, but a fight with Bika has the potential to set up a supercharged 2015 sign-off.

Gennady Golovkin

Age: 32 Record: 29-0-0, 26 KOs Titles: Reigning WBA and IBO middleweight champion

Could it happen? "Golovkin is a freak of nature - he's a beast," believes Eddie Hearn, Froch's promoter, who said last year he would gladly see the Kazakh step up a division as he waits for a middleweight unification bout with Sergio Martinez. "A fight with Froch would just be epic. Froch will fight any man. Whilst Golovkin is largely avoided, Froch will quite willingly step up and ideally that is a fight that could happen."

Should it happen? Only if Froch isn't looking to coast his way into retirement. Triple-G has terrorised the middleweight division - Martinez's promoter described him as an animal, and with 26 knockouts from 29 fights it is hard to argue - but it is solid technique and laser focus that lies behind Golovkin's unbeaten record, and puts him a league above Groves. Indeed, Roy Jones Jr believes Golovkin would punish flaws in Froch's technique: "Those mistakes that he [Froch] makes would be brought out pretty quick and you would see a whole different level of playing field between the two contestants," he told HBO.

Bottom line: There's no doubting Froch-Golovkin would be a genuinely exciting contest, one that's too close to call. If the Chavez fight doesn't happen, he could prey on Froch's pride and goad him into a showdown.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Feeds Feeds: ESPN staff

ESPN staff Close