The Hitman and Him: Carl Froch with friend Michael Holt
When muscle-bound fighting machine Carl Froch is pummeling the life out of the likes of Andre Dirrell and Arthur Abraham, it’s difficult to imagine him poised delicately over a snooker table, finessing a tricky red into a corner pocket.
Yet his two favourite sports are boxing and snooker – which might seem at first to be as diverse as sports can get. Froch, though, believes that there are elements which tie the two together.
“They are both mano a mano,” said the 33-year-old WBC Super Middleweight champion from Nottingham, nicknamed The Cobra. “I like individual sports where you have to be mentally tough and confident. If you approach them with a negative attitude, you are going to end up in a hole you can’t dig yourself out of. In that respect, snooker is a lot like boxing.”
In fact, Froch was obsessed with snooker as a child, and was determined to become a professional and follow in the footsteps of his biggest idols.
“I used to be fixated with Steve Davis and Jimmy White, then later on with Ronnie O’Sullivan,” he said. “As a kid, I wondered how great it would be to do something you enjoy for a living. I never made it as a snooker player – but I ended up doing that anway as a boxer.
“I still love playing snooker and have a game whenever I can. It’s my favourite way of switching off and relaxing, away from all of the pressures associated with boxing.”
His main sparring partner on the green baize is Michael Holt, the World No 43 from Nottingham who won the Players Tour Championship event in Prague earlier this season.
“He’s too good and doesn’t give me much of a chance,” said Froch. “We get on really well as we’re from the same area and have a similar sense of humour. He’s a great lad and I always want him to do well when he’s playing in tournaments.
“If I’m playing with my mates, we’ll usually play doubles and have a bet on it – £10 or £20 makes it interesting and gives a real edge to the game. When you’re playing for money the game suddenly becomes harder and I find it more difficult to make decent breaks. So I’m amazed how the top players produce their best when they are competing for hundreds of thousands – but I guess that’s what makes them the top players.
“I’ve got a pool table at home – I’d love to have a snooker table but I would need a massive extension to my house if I was going to put one in. I play a lot on the pool table and try to practise certain shots that are needed in snooker. Otherwise I go to play at a club near where I live.
“I’ve had a few breaks in the 40s including a 49 and a 46. I’ve not quite managed the half century yet – whenever I’m playing with my brother Wayne, if I get close to 50 he tries to put me off.
“I’ve met a few of the players – including Tony Drago who I had a good chat with when he was waiting to play a match in the qualifiers at the English Institute of Sport – Sheffield. He’s a great character on and the way he plays is amazing to watch – he’s so fast. I’ve met Ronnie a few times as well because we use the same physiotherapist. He’s into his running and he likes boxing so we’ve got a fair bit in common.”
Froch has had 28 professional fights, winning 27 of those with 20 knock downs. In 2008 he beat Canada’s Jean Pascal on points to win the WBC super middleweight title. The following year he defended it against Jermain Taylor, and despite being sent to the canvas in the third round, he recovered to win with a dramatic 12th round knock out, when he looked set to lose on points.
Another successful defence followed, against Andre Dirrell, before Froch suffered the only loss of his career, on points against Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler. However, in November last year, he regained the WBC title with the best performance of his life, scoring a convincing points victory over Arthur Abraham.
He is now in training for a showdown with Glen Johnson in June. But Froch hopes to find time in his rigorous schedule to fulfill one of his sporting dreams with a trip to Sheffield.
“I’ve never been to a big tournament – I’ve only been to watch qualifying matches at the EIS,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Crucible but the World Championship has always clashed with my fights or training schedule.”