Two weeks on from the headline performances of David Haye and Manny Pacquiao, a fighter who resembles that star duo more than most returns to the ring. Carl Froch may not earn the big bucks or indeed the mainstream plaudits but if fighters were paid according to entertainment value, the Nottingham man would be a billionaire. As ever, Froch's bout this weekend against Arthur Abraham has the potential to be another barn-burner.
Since stepping up to World Championship level Froch has delivered four outstanding efforts on the bounce and has shown his ability to deliver and come out on top at the highest level. 'The Cobra' won the WBC super middleweight title against Jean Pascal in our domestic fight of the year in late 2008 and followed that up by getting off the canvas to halt Jermain Taylor then outworking talented speedster Andre Dirrell. As form lines go, the first and last named wins have a very solid look.
Pascal has gone on to prove himself a top World Champion at light heavyweight and in beating Chad Dawson recently, one of boxing's pound-for-pound best, while Dirrell was spanking Abraham on points until that stray, disqualifying punch. Pascal has gone on record as saying Froch is an underestimated, clever fighter and the toughest as well as the best he has faced.
Still, Froch's winning run came to an end in April when he ran into the classy Dane Mikkel Kessler who (as tipped in this column) was just a little too good for the Englishman. The truth is that there wasn't much in that decision loss; it was a scrap that Froch perhaps should have won and certainly one which he emerged from looking the stronger fighter. But in the opposite corner this weekend, Froch faces a man who can at least match him for toughness.
Arthur Abraham went down in boxing folklore with his frighteningly brave win against Edison Miranda in 2006 when he fought most of the fight with a grotesquely swollen and broken jaw. That was the third of 11 defences of the IBF middleweight title which 'King Arthur' vacated to enter the Super Six series. His debut at super middleweight saw him effectively end the career of Jermain Taylor who was stopped late on, just as he had in his previous fight against Froch. And so to the perplexing conclusion to Abraham's last fight against Dirrell which he was losing comprehensively. I wouldn't say the jury is out on Abraham but he is not altogether easy to define now.
I have to concede changing my mind twice in approaching this preview and ultimately the betting has a large bearing on the outcome because I think it is simply wrong. As I see it, Froch should be at least a marginal favourite yet he is available at 2.44 while Abraham is the 1.72 favourite. There is no doubt that Abraham is a hard, dangerous fighter and he has that deceptive, sneaky speed which suddenly appears as a sharp counter from behind that high guard. I can definitely see him catching Froch and we know that Abraham hits hard with one punch knockout power. If he wins it might just be by KO/TKO/DQ 3.05.
Froch though has just about the best chin in the business as he showed against Pascal and when getting up off the canvass for the first time in his career to beat Taylor. He is a very hard man. Yes, he still fights with that worrying hands low style at times and he doesn't use his jab to best advantage nearly often enough but he generally finds a way to win and given his strengths, this is his fight to lose.
We know that Abraham will fight from behind a tight guard and that always gives his opponents the opportunity to dictate the fight's pattern. Froch isn't a dancer like Dirrell but he has a three inch height and a 2.5 inch reach advantage, so he can make this easy for himself if he chooses to and he has one of the sport's best emerging trainers on his side in the shape of Robert McCracken.
I don't think Abraham could give Kessler the problems that Froch did and I sense the Nottingham man has emerged from that battle with a new confidence. Certainly he'll need it for a semi-final eliminator that promises to be another Froch fight of the year. Get the record button pressed and enjoy the ride.
By Alex Steedman
(Read more at betting.betfair.com)