Carl Froch beat George Groves in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley, but his greatest fight took place against Jermain Taylor in a Connecticut casino with no UK viewers
Carl Froch ended his career by knocking out George Groves in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium – as he’s never been shy to remind people – in one of the biggest British boxing events of all-time.
However, according to the man himself, the standout fight on Froch’s stunning résumé took place at a 3,000-capacity casino in Connecticut with nobody watching back home and little ringside support.
Millions in the UK had tuned in to witness Froch win the WBC super-middleweight title against Canadian Jean Pascal live on ITV in December 2008.
Five months later he was heading to America to make the first defence of the green and gold strap against Jermain Taylor – the former undisputed middleweight champion who had twice beaten Bernard Hopkins.
ITV had pulled out of boxing, Sky Sports didn’t want to know and, at 31, Froch was putting it all on the line on Taylor’s turf with the feeling he was doing it all alone, with just his trainer Rob McCracken and his family along for the ride.
It turned out to be the most memorable fight of Froch’s career.
The ‘Cobra’ joined talkSPORT’s Fight Of My Life to relive the contest this week with the full show set to air on Sunday night at 9:30pm.
“I’d just become the WBC super-middleweight champion by beating Jean Pascal,” Froch recalled, “My first defence was against mandatory Jermain Taylor.
“When I got told he was mandatory, I was thinking there is no easy touch with the Cobra, I’m going straight into the deep end with Jermain Taylor, who I knew was fast, skilful, could fight and could punch.
“I won the world championship and it was in the time of the big financial crash, towards the back of 2008 and right into 2009.
“I fought for the world title on ITV, terrestrial television, which is usually good news because you get a lot of armchair fans – millions of viewers rather than hundreds of thousands.
“Unfortunately, ITV pulled out of boxing and I was left in no man’s land. Showtime wanted the fight [in America]. But we literally got that fight shown on Sunday afternoon the next day [in the UK], which was really bad. It was a real poor effort.
“I’m not going to point fingers or blame anybody but for me to be defending my WBC world title, and the first defence against somebody like Jermain Taylor, for not that not to be shown live on British television is nothing short of a tragedy and a disgrace, to be honest.
“We went over to America and it was pretty much all on Jermain Taylor’s terms from start to finish.
“It wasn’t mega-money but it was six figures, in American dollars. It was decent-ish for me, but I never really looked at what I was earning in my career.
“I boxed for the titles. And if I’m going to defend against Jermain Taylor in my first fight, and that is over in America, then so be it. That is what champions do.”
Froch was as good as his word and got on a flight to America to defend his world title.
In an unusual move though, his girlfriend at the time Rachael – who is now his wife – went with him.
“My now wife Rachael came over to Connecticut about four days before the fight and I wish I never really saw her,” he remembered.
“I made the mistake of seeing Rachael and letting her stay in my room for two nights before the fight. As Rocky said, ‘No funny business.’
“I used to abstain for many weeks before a fight. But my wife was there and I was lying in bed the night before the weigh-in and Rachael said to me, ‘What is that noise?’
“It was my heart beating in my chest. It was loud and off-putting.
“I was lying there and just visualising the fight and when I put myself in front of Jermain Taylor, my heart is beating because my adrenal glands are releasing adrenaline into my blood system.
“I’m living the ring walk and entrance and visualising what will happen and how the first round is going to pan out.
“My heart is pounding in my chest and my breathing is happening to the sound of my heartbeat. Rachael had never heard that before. That was her first fight, her first experience in a boxing arena.
“I can vividly remember explaining to her my heart was pounding because I was actually frightened to death. I was very nervous and concerned this fight could go against me.”
On fight night, the conditions did not go very far to help assuage Froch’s bad feelings.
He explained: “As champion, you usually get the home dressing rooms and champion treatment. But when I got to the venue, the changing rooms were no bigger than this recording studio.
“I was wedged in with a sofa, a cupboard, a desk and a chair. They put me in the smallest room in the venue.
“Rob McCracken being Rob McCracken was straight down to business. I was thinking, ‘Bloody hell, this is small, what are they doing to me?’
“I was warming up on the pads and was absolutely petrified. The reality of, ‘I’m fighting Jermain Taylor in about 20 minutes,’ had kicked in.”
When the fight began, Froch was quickly shown that he was right to be worried.
In the opening rounds, he found himself getting outboxed by Taylor’s fast hands before suffering a rude awakening as the American smashed him to the canvas in round three.
Asked what he was thinking at that point, Froch answered: “Oh s***, what just happened?
“Round three was going well, I had to time him because he was too quick for me. I had a bit of success, I got careless.
“I threw an uppercut, left my feet behind and got caught with a right hand and almost turned around on my feet.
“I felt hurt and as I backed up to the ropes, I watched him coming in, watched him coming forward, and an overhand right – I didn’t see it coming.
“It caught me on the left side of the chin or ear and it just flattened me. My legs went under me and I was sat down on the seat of my pants for the first time in my whole career. I had never been put down as an amateur or professional.
“I can remember being on the floor and thinking, ‘I’ve just been knocked down, bloody hell, what do I do?’ I looked over to Rob McCracken as if to say, ‘I’m alright, I’m ok, I’m going to take the count.’
“I sat there for a second, gathered my thoughts, stood up, looked at Jermain Taylor, nodded at him as if to say, ‘Good shot, well done.’ I smiled at him to let him know that I was okay.
“That was my stubborn personality, my gritty mentality. From that point, I woke up. I thought, ‘I might be down, but I’m far from being out.’”
Taylor’s fast hands were a consistent problem for Froch throughout the fight and, with three minutes remaining, he was far behind on two of the three judges’ scorecards, heading for defeat.
It was at this point that the Brit produced the come-from-behind knockout that is fondly remembered by fans to this day.
Froch proudly recalled: “I wasn’t thinking I needed the stoppage. Just keep the pressure on, keep backing him up, keep working, hit him as many times as I can, as hard as I can without getting hit back.
“I hit him with a great flurry. He was shaky, he was on his back foot, Rob was calling me and I could see Rob waving his arms forward towards himself in the bottom right hand corner.
“I backed him into the ropes, he moved off to the side, I hit him with a couple of jabs, right hand, switched to southpaw, he was against the ropes and I threw an uppercut that went straight through his guard and landed flush on his chin and put him over.
“He got up, the referee said ‘box’ and I thought, ‘I’ve still got a job to do.’ I had to stop him.
“I hit him with 18 unanswered punches. The referee had no choice but to jump in and stop the fight.
“The American commentary said, ‘I’m coming back to England, Mum, and I’m keeping my title!’ That was a moment I will never, ever forget.
“One of the best moments, if not the best moment, of my whole boxing career. I have had some amazing moments throughout my career but that is one that I will never, ever forget.”