Carl Froch – The Good Life
UK boxing legend Carl Froch speaks to Danny Flexen about retirement, future wife Rachael Cordingley and their three kids, his Sky job and, of course, George Groves
An ability to adapt can be the quality which separates the elite from the merely excellent. Whether tweaking their style to prolong a career or switching tactics to alter the hitherto perilous course of a fight, a fighter that can identify where they are going wrong and, more importantly, rectify the problem before the cause is lost, will excel throughout their competitive life and beyond. It could be this characteristic, more than the toughness or dedication for which he is rightly renowned, that truly set Carl Froch apart during a legendary life as a boxer, and continues to do so since officially retiring from the sport in 2015.
Froch has, in some quarters, been unfairly labelled as one-dimensional. This common – yet flawed – synopsis paints the former four-time world super-middleweight champion as little more than a super-fit, strong, bloody-minded slugger with an indefatigable spirit, ample power and iron jaw. These attributes could certainly all be found in the Nottingham man’s locker, but his World Amateur bronze medal from 2001, and the way in which he confounded critics by comprehensively outboxing Arthur Abraham nine years later, suggest there may be more to it than that. Froch, who only lost twice as a professional, also proved somewhat expert at coming from behind to win, overcoming adversity, as he did against Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell and in his first, contentious win over George Groves. His detractors claimed him rigid but in reality his ability to adapt to changing circumstances served Froch remarkably well and remains a huge asset in what can often be a blind walk into the abyss.
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“Three kids, that’s what takes my time up!” he declares, while relaxing outside his recently completed villa in Marbella. “The Cobra” has three children with fiancée Rachael Cordingley: Rocco (8), Natalia (5) and Penelope (who turns three in September). The beautiful Spanish abode is part of a vast property collection run in the main by Carl’s boisterous brother Lee (remember him?) and, if anything, the 41-year-old vegan – he and his family only eat organic – finds free time more scarce now than in his heyday. “We have two at school and one at nursery a couple of days a week. I’m getting into golf now, I quite enjoy it, I’m competitive by nature [you don’t say!] and I’m trying to get into a single-figure handicap. When I’m not playing tennis or golf, the main thing in terms of keeping me active and in the public eye is my Sky Sports job, being a boxing commentator and analyst. It’s my favourite job.
“In terms of bringing in a livelihood, my property business is blossoming very well now. Lee – you’ve seen what kinda character he is – is now my right-hand man, he manages all my residential properties. I’ve got to-let and commercial properties, and now I’m expanding into restaurants that rent property off me and residential office blocks. Lee sorts out all the problems, he project-manages as well as doing new builds. I’ve been investing since I was 19 or 20 and I realised I could make a decent living out of it. I’ve now got close to a hundred properties. I’m lucky my older brother is sober now, as he does a fantastic job for me. Lee is also my best friend now and I never thought I’d say that. He recently got his three-year chip for sobriety, and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my life as much without him.”
As the spotlight often eluded Froch during the early part of his pro tenure, he embraced its belated arrival and made the absolute most of the unrelenting glare. He sailed off into the sunset on the back of what was then the highest ever attendance in British boxing history, spectacularly knocking out his arch enemy George Groves
in eight rounds at a venue he rarely mentions before a capacity crowd he doesn’t like to discuss. An exciting final chapter culminated in that glorious denouement and in part explains why Froch is now so content beyond the ropes, although his role at Sky is another factor. The job allows him to remain involved in a sport which had consumed him, his vantage point now close enough to dissuade a regrettable comeback yet sufficiently imtimate to satisfy a craving that may never fully go away. It is a vocation Froch takes seriously, contrary to criticism – most notably on social media – that he sometimes fails to carry out the requisite due dilligence on all the talent showcased by his employer.
“My third-year anniversary on Sky has just passed,” Froch reflects, unruffled by a mention of the online opprobrium. “When I first did it I was still boxing so I just used to turn up. I did more analysis than commentating – you get asked a question and you answer – but now it’s a job and I get 40 pages of notes before every show. You need to do your research and know your stuff. I read Boxing News
and Boxing Monthly
quite religiously now. I’ve never been a boxing historian, I’m more current, I know about my era. I really enjoy it, I love watching the boxing and I’m privileged to work with Adam Smith as the lead commentator. He sets the scene so well, he makes you feel like you’re there when you’re watching. I got my English A-Level but I still end up looking through the dictionary for words he’s used. I’m constantly learning. It’s not my job to set the scene, it’s my job to tell the layman what’s happening in the ring. I ‘put myself in the ring’ and I then find that quite easy, what I need to do to keep out of the opponent’s way as he’s trying to take ‘my’ head off. I can read a fight very well.”
It should come as no surprise that Froch is often asked to ‘read’ the forthcoming World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between his old rival Groves and friend Callum Smith, who Carl used to spar on a regular basis. Carl’s prediction on the eagerly awaited September showdown can be found in the latest edition of the aforementioned Boxing Monthly
, but in advance of the clash Froch seems to have mellowed a little towards Groves, a man who once enjoyed longtime residence under his nemesis’ skin. That said, Froch believes their Cold War is only thawing on his side of the battlefield.
“You’ve got to admire his performance in our first fight; I’ve never got beaten up that bad in my life,” the Nottingham legend admits regarding a battle that saw him get off the deck to halt Groves, controversially, in round nine. “But it’s a 12-round fight. [Referee] Howard Foster jumped in at the perfect time, for Groves’ health and mindset – because he convinced himself he was doing okay when he was out on his feet. But what Groves has done since me beating him has enhanced my legacy massively. As a boxer, Groves has achieved amazing things, he has showed so much desire, courage and belief. I admire him, I really do, for what he’s been through and where he is now. I hope he goes on and has a great career.
“But if he could just admit, ‘Froch turned it around in the first fight, what a tough bastard. He swallowed it all up, yes I still think the ref stopped it too early but if I’m honest I was badly hurt, on my way down and in hindsight Foster probably did us both a favour. It set the Wembley rematch up and Froch is a great fighter, he’s had a great career.’ You think he’d have a little bit more respect, be more magnanimous and just admit, ‘I actually underestimated Froch’, but he can’t give me any praise. The lack of praise from him doesn’t bother me but it would make him a better, more likeable person.”
It’s an interesting perspective from a man who rarely seemed to care for wider acceptance or popularity. It was always respect Froch pursued, the need to be revered as a man’s man, a warrior, a label he has more than earned. Now his competitive instincts are focused in other directions, Froch prioritises the happiness of those closest to him and strives to enhance the quality of their lives. One senses that the joy he derives from this mission – more than Sky, golf or even the temperate Spanish climate - is the biggest contributing factor to his current sunny disposition. The Froch fighting name, however, could yet live on.
“I take Rocco boxing at my old amateur club, Phoenix,” reveals a man who confesses that a lack of desire to put his body through the mill precludes any thoughts of a personal comeback. “He’s quite a natural, maybe because I had him slipping and throwing punches since he was three years old. He really enjoys it but I’m steering him away from it; he’d go every night if he could but I only take him once a week.
“I love Rachael more than life itself, but childbirth is the most barbaric thing I’ve ever seen; she’s done it three times to our wonderful children. I’ve been very lucky, and we have three perfect, healthy kids.”
And, thankfully, that seems to be enough. Froch may be one of those rare but inspiring tales of a boxer who left on a victory, transitioned into a fulfilling existence outside the ring and has never looked back, at least not in anger or yearning. Like him or not, we can all learn something from that.