Carl Froch should have little reason to complain. Twice winner of the World Boxing Council super-middleweight belt and holder of the International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title, he has a wife who is a glamour model and, as we sit in his kitchen in Nottingham, he plays with his son who has just celebrated his second birthday.
But the man nicknamed the Cobra cannot conceal the hurt he feels.
“I haven’t had the recognition I deserve,” he says. “You can go back to anybody’s career — Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, David Haye, Amir Khan, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Naseem Hamed. My record is better than all of theirs.
“I’ve won against more unbeaten fighters than any of them, had more exciting fights. It’s not like I have one hard fight, then a couple of easy fights and then another hard fight. Since I won the WBC world title against Jean Pascal in 2008, every single fight has been against a top-level fighter.”
Froch reels off an impressive list: Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute, who was unbeaten when he surrendered his IBF belt to Froch in May.
“For whatever reason, I’ve not had the exposure,” Froch says. He is so little recognised that he was not part of the Olympic torch relay as it passed through Nottingham and did not even know it was coming to his home town. “I’m not a big enough name to carry the Olympic torch.”
His words have an edge as David Haye and Dereck Chisora prepare for what has been described as a freak contest at Upton Park this Saturday. The fight does not promise boxing excellence as the two heavyweights have both lost to the Klitschko brothers — Wladimir and Vitali — and they come to the ring with their reputations damaged.
They traded blows at a press conference in Munich in February after Chisora lost to Vitali. The British Boxing Board of Control tried to stop the fight, which is only going ahead because it has been sanctioned by the Luxembourg Boxing Federation.
Froch has strong views about the Munich fiasco. “I don’t know whether Chisora is mentally ill or unstable. But the way he was behaving in the build-up to the fight was totally unreasonable. It was disgraceful. He slapped Klitschko at the weigh-in and then spat in Wladimir’s face in the ring. That is no way to behave. As a professional you should be leading by example.
“David Haye gave Chisora a smack in the face at the press conference but I don’t think he did it deliberately, it was instinctive. Chisora was coming to David in a threatening manner and he did what he had to do to defend himself.”
But, while Froch may excuse Haye’s behaviour and thinks he will easily win on Saturday, he does not believe he should be fighting at all. Haye always insisted he would not box past the age of 30 and, although he retired on his 31st birthday last October, he has since done a U-turn.
“It winds me up,” Froch says. “When people retire, they should stay retired. I was in Jamaica with David for two weeks after he said he was retired. He’s made his money.
“He was happy with his career but he said, ‘I would come back if I get the Vitali fight.’ He had no intention of fighting Chisora. He is not getting Vitali but then money changes everything, doesn’t it?”
Froch, who has known Haye since their days together as amateur boxers, is aware how sharply focused on money Haye has always been.
“David is a nice guy, a gentleman, generous, but he’s also a clever and astute businessman,” Froch says. “He is very good at selling pay-per-view and he’s made ¬millions. He’s on Britain’s rich list.”
Froch is not on that list but things have begun to look up since his move to Barry Hearn’s Matchroom last June. He now has a Twitter following of nearly 100,000 and, much as he would like to be as rich as Haye, there is one Haye practice that Froch will not copy. “I don’t hype a fight to sell tickets,” he says.
Haye, in trying to sell tickets for his Audley Harrison fight in 2010, went so far as to say it was going to be “as one-sided as a gang rape”. Later, Haye admitted to me: “If I had said I’m looking forward to fighting Audley Harrison, he’s a great guy and I believe that, on the night, I can beat him, nobody’s going to pay £15 to watch it or £2,000 for a ring-side seat.”
Froch, shaking his head, says: “You don’t get respect for these hyped-up fights. Before I boxed Mikkel Kessler [to whom he lost his WBC title], I shook his hand and said, ‘Good luck,’ and he said, ‘May the best man win.’ I know the tickets were already sold out but I’m very honest.”
But did Froch not ‘do a Haye’ when he fought Dirrell to defend his WBC title in 2009?
“No,” says Froch. “That’s rubbish. He’s very arrogant, not a nice person. At the weigh-in, I told him I’m going to knock him out. He retaliated by saying, ‘You ain’t,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, trust me, I’m going to hit you and I’ll knock you out, that’s what I’m going to be doing; I’m going to be coming for you and I’m going to hurt you.’ He started pushing me and we had a little bit of a push and shove. But that was genuine.”
For Froch, this disdain for boxing hype springs from his belief that he has natural ability, unlike Frank Bruno. “He was an engineered fighter. He is a good example of somebody who trained hard and was dedicated. Then you’ve got people like Naseem Hamed and myself who have natural ability.”
It was watching Hamed that made Froch take to boxing and move away from his infatuation with Nottingham Forest and football.
Although his father boxed, Froch says: “When I was a kid, I never really used to watch boxing. I’d never have gone back to the gym and turned professional but for the excitement of watching Nas, such a flamboyant unusual style, pure entertainment.”
And, in a professional career where Froch has lost only two of his 31 fights, he is certain his Polish background gives him a natural advantage. “My grandparents came here during the War. I say that I’m genetically gifted. In a weight-governed sport, I don’t put weight on because of my Polish ¬heritage, it’s genetic.” With that the 35-year-old lifts his vest to show me his rock-hard midriff, saying: “Even when I am not in training, I don’t put on weight. When I start training, I don’t need to take a lot of weight off.”
This, he says, gives him another advantage as he has never had any reason to worry about getting badly hurt.
“Everybody who gets a serious head injury has cheated at the weight,” he asserts. “They’ve taken too much weight off in the run-up to the fight.
“You take a stone off, you’re dehydrated. You lose the fluid from your body including around your brain. When you’re hit in the head, your brain’s bashed against the inside of your skull and you’ve got no fluid there to protect it, so it bruises and bleeds like anywhere else in your body.”
But, despite these natural advantages, Froch feels boxers are at the mercy of judges. He is convinced he missed out on making Team GB for the 2000 Sydney Olympics because he was wrongly scored in the qualifying competition. Olympic judging has been under the spotlight ever since Roy Jones Junior lost at the 1988 Games in Seoul. Froch reinforces his argument by pointing out that, soon after Sydney, he won against two medallists from the Games.
Froch says the standard of judging in professional boxing is far higher but is certain the home crowds can sway the mood. This, he believes, cost him the WBC title to Kessler when they fought in Herning, Denmark, last year.
“He is the Danish equivalent of David Beckham. Mikkel Kessler was throwing shots at me that were missing. I was blocking many of them. If my back is to the judges and I’m blocking shots but the crowd’s going mental, the judges, however unbiased, are influenced by the crowd. It was a close fight. I thought I won. But, according to the judges, I lost by quite a wide margin in a unanimous points decision.”
Froch admits the same natural home ¬advantage may have helped him when he beat Bute at the Nottingham Arena. “So, if the Kessler fight had been in Nottingham, I would have definitely won the fight, 100 per cent.”
A rematch in his home town with Kessler is Froch’s dream fight. But, before that, he will have to fight other boxers including Bute and it could take a year for the promoters to find the money. But, when they do, what will give Froch great satisfaction is that he will, once again, be in the ring with a boxer he admires. “Kessler is a warrior like me,” he says.
He would hardly say that of either Haye or Chisora.
Carl rates 2012 Olympic boxing Brits
Andrew Selby (52kg). He is a very good fighter. He beat newly turned professional Khalid Yafai in the box-off for his place. Has potential for gold.
Luke Campbell (56kg). Fantastic fighter, tall for his weight, very fast and has real mental toughness.
Josh Taylor (60kg). The only Scot in the team. He’s done well to qualify. He can win a medal but I don’t think he’s the best in the world at this stage.
Tom Stalker (64kg). The team captain is tall and has fast hands and is one of the best in the world: a gold prospect.
Fred Evans (69kg). A brilliant fighter and southpaw counter-puncher. Difficult to lay a glove on.
Anthony Ogogo (75kg). A fast-handed counter-puncher who could go one better than his Commonwealth silver.
Anthony Joshua (91kg+). Joshua is a big puncher, and accurate with it. That is a lethal combination.
Nicola Adams (51kg). Won gold in the European championships. Ren Cancan, from China, will be a threat but she has beaten her before and can do it on home turf.
Natasha Jonas (60kg). The first girl to qualify. The Liverpool southpaw has moved down to lightweight to fight in the Games and could win gold.
Savannah Marshall (75kg). She should add Olympic gold to the world title she won on her 21st birthday.