Life lessons from Froch
What, I wondered, can Britain's top amateur boxers learn from having a two-time professional world champion training in their midst? Strength? Movement? One or two dark arts? "It's all about the nice things," says middleweight prospect Anthony Ogogo. "His Range Rover, his watch. It's great to be around."
As ever in boxing, money talks loudest. And why not? While for Ogogo and Co next year's London Olympics seems like the ultimate goal, having 80 grand's worth of motor parked out front and a dirty great dial flashed in your face whenever you need the time acts as a reminder that all this modestly-remunerated pain might just have a long-term pay-off.
Nottingham's WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch knows where Ogogo came from and what it takes to turn amateur medals into professional belts. Such alchemy is rare, which is why Ogogo, who won Commonwealth Games silver last year, is wise to take note of the labour behind the luxuries: belts are forged on the anvil of industry.
Froch has trained alongside GB amateurs like Commonwealth silver medallist Ogogo - Photos: Getty
"Having me around shows that if you succeed in the paid ranks, you can have the niceties in life," says Froch, who spent part of the build-up to Saturday's world title defence against Glen Johnson training alongside Britain's elite amateurs at Sheffield's English Institute of Sport. "But it also shows success is a result of bloody hard work."
Rob McCracken juggles his role as trainer of Froch, the first Brit to win a medal at an amateur world championships, and head coach of Team GB.
"They can look at what he's achieved and where he's come from, which is exactly the same place as them," he says. "A lot of the boxers here have the ability but it comes down to how much they want it, how dedicated they are, how disciplined they are. And Carl's got the lot."
Froch, like any good pro, is also wise enough to know you never stop learning, however young and inexperienced the teacher might be. "I can learn from his heavy-handedness and his power," says Ogogo, who has won a gold and a silver so far at tournaments this year. "And he can learn from my speed, my reactions and movement, because while he fights marathons, that's my game. Everyone's a winner."
Froch is also well-placed to tell Ogogo that while success as a professional might afford you lots of your favourite things, two things you cannot buy are love and recognition. His fight against Johnson will be the first time he has boxed on a mainstream channel since his stirring defeat of Jean Pascal back in 2008. Since that bout, when he won the WBC belt for the first time, he has been dazzling in the shadows.
"When you consider the level Carl fights at, it's unbelievable what he's done," says McCracken. "He's put together a streak of wins against genuine world champions, tried and tested, with great reputations. You tell me another British boxer who has put together a run like Carl has? I can't think of one.
"He beat a future light-heavyweight world champion in Pascal, he beat a former undisputed middleweight world champion in Jermain Taylor, he beat American hotshot Andre Dirrell and he beat Arthur Abraham, who was a middleweight world champion for a long time and a destructive puncher. Carl has been fantastic for British boxing and he should get the rewards now."
It would be cruel, even by boxing's standards, if an epic tale Froch concedes has "gone under the radar" were to come to a grinding halt this weekend: the winner of the fight in Atlantic City will meet WBA title-holder Andre Ward in the final of the Super Six tournament later this year, most probably in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden.
But if Froch thinks he is underappreciated, he has nothing on Johnson, boxing's undisputed 'Road Warrior'. The 42-year-old Jamaican has fought 67 bouts in all corners of the globe since turning pro in 1993, and his "have gloves, will travel" attitude has led to fights against some of the modern era's biggest names.
By the time Froch won his bronze medal at the 2001 amateur world championships, Johnson had made two unsuccessful world title challenges, losing to Bernard Hopkins in 1997 (he was knocked out in 11 rounds, his only defeat inside the distance) and Germany's Sven Ottke in 1999 (he was robbed). Johnson has also beaten the great Roy Jones Jr, Antonio Tarver and Sheffield's Clinton Woods, and made it through to the last four of the Super Six with a knockout of Allan Green, a man 11 years his junior.
"You'll never hurt Glen Johnson," says Froch, "he's like a tree. But there's definitely a chance he's been around too long. No disrespect to Rob McCracken, but he's as old as my trainer. So I need to get the work-rate on him, put the pressure on him. But it's not in my interest to stand and trade. I made that mistake against Mikkel Kessler [Froch lost his WBC belt to the Dane last April, in his first defeat as a pro], it won't happen again.
"I'll do against Johnson what I did against Abraham: use my boxing skills, use my range, and if I need to go 12 rounds to get the points win, I'm not worried about that."
Adds McCracken: "You want to keep Johnson at length as much as you can, but you're not going to be able to all the time, he'll find ways in. But Carl is heavy-handed, it's no joke when he's hitting you. And while Johnson is tough, he's not Superman, and I'd hope Carl will be breaking him down by the middle rounds."
While Froch says the thought of a match against Ward in the United States "makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and gets me clenching my fists and gritting my teeth", he stresses that all the glory, all the bling, is underpinned by a more prosaic reality.
"This is my living," says Froch, "I do what I have to do. I've got a beautiful partner at home in Rachael, a beautiful baby boy who's 11 months old, and they're as important, if not more important than boxing. You might think, 'you've got a kid, how can he not be more important than your boxing?' But it's boxing that will keep the family together and keep us going for the rest of our lives. That's why I'm focused on achieving my goals."
Valuable lessons from a world-class boxer, financial adviser and life coach all rolled into one. Ogogo and the rest of the amateur boys in Sheffield will miss him when he has gone.