Froch bests Johnson in Super Six semi
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Carl Froch has always given off an utter sense of confidence, almost bordering on arrogance, and since Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic was announced in the summer of 2009, he has said he would win it.
Over and over and over.
Now, after going 2-1 in the group stage bouts and winning a majority decision to retain his super middleweight title in the semifinals against Glen Johnson on Saturday night at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall, Froch has just one more mountain to climb.
That mountain is Andre Ward, a fellow titleholder who sat ringside as part of Showtime's broadcast team and, no doubt, was scouting his fall opponent in the finale of the tournament that will have taken two years to complete by the time it's over.
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"He's a great fighter, an Olympic gold medalist, but it's going to be a totally different kind of fight than this was," Froch said of facing Ward for the big silver trophy, two belts and a lot of money. "[Ward] was a great amateur fighter, I was a great amateur fighter. We're both great professional champions and this was what it is all about. We were original Super Six [participants] and we're in the final."
Indeed, three of the original members of the field -- Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell -- all withdrew, citing injuries. But Froch and Ward, despite hard roads, are the last men standing.
"I think that this [final] was what we all felt like was supposed to happen -- me, Froch and Showtime," Ward said. "We were the original two fighters in [the semifinals]. We both endured the hardships along the way. From a selling standpoint, this is a bigger fight [than Ward-Johnson]. The fight Froch and Johnson fought was how I thought it would be, and I'm looking forward to getting into the finals against Froch."
Froch (28-1, 20 KOs), who drew a small but vocal group of supporters from his native England to cheer him on among the 2,286 in attendance, did what he usually does in beating Johnson to get to the final: He outworked him in a hard-hitting fight.
Although judge Nobuaki Uratani of Japan scored it 114-114, the other judges seemed more on the mark with scores of 117-111 and 116-112 for Froch. ESPN.com also had it for Froch, 117-111.
Johnson, a 42-year-old former light heavyweight champion who dropped down to join the field after Kessler withdrew, put up a very credible performance -- as he always does -- but Froch was just too fresh, too quick and displayed a superb chin.
Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) landed several bombs, but not only did Froch take them without budging, he would immediately return fire with four- and five-punch combinations.
He definitely earned Johnson's respect.
"I've seen him take some big punches from other fighters, but I really thought when I hit him I would get more results," Johnson said. "The thing that threw me off was he was able to take the shots and come right back and throw big shots and combinations.
"He certainly has one of the better chins. Most guys, when I hit them clean, I get good results."
In the seventh round, for example, Johnson rocked Froch with two right hands. But Froch walked through the shots and unloaded a flurry in return.
The same thing happened again in the eighth round, probably the most action-packed of the fight.
Although one judge had the fight a draw, Johnson did not argue the result.
"It was a close fight, but I can't argue with the decision," Johnson said. "My corner was telling me I was falling behind. I took myself out of the fight by just throwing hard punches. I wanted to land bigger punches and I got greedy, but I knew that Carl Froch would be that kind of fighter. I got into a slugging match and I was supposed to box. I got out of my game plan.
"I was able to hit him, but I got greedy. I started coming in on the inside and he was able to take my best punches. That surprised me."
Although Johnson is no spring chicken, and has now lost two of his last three (including a light heavyweight title bout to Tavoris Cloud last August), he said he is not necessarily done.
"I feel like this was the kind of fight that fans wants to see," he said. "If fans want to keep seeing me fight, I will keep fighting. I fell out of my game plan. That happens to the best of everyone. That doesn't mean I am finished. It just means I will come back better."
He found his experience in the tournament -- a knockout win against Allan Green and the loss to Froch -- a positive one.
"I had a chance to box against two of the better super middleweights in the world and compete well, after coming down from 175," Johnson said. "I still believe I can do some damage in this weight class. I am still here and ready to compete."
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While Johnson ponders his next move, Froch knows he is facing Ward. But he still took time to give Johnson his props for a tough fight.
"He was very tough. He's very strong, like an oak tree," Froch said. "I started off slow, but toward the end I was throwing more punches. I thought I won the fight easily. I don't know what that other judge was watching. But, yes, I could feel his shots. He's a real tough guy."
Johnson's best success came early in the fight. Johnson tagged Froch with powerful jabs and also bounced some hard right hands off his chin and head. But as the fight wore on, Froch found his rhythm in a fight with many exciting exchanges.
"Carl Froch is one of the most underrated fighters in the world," said Lou DiBella, Johnson's co-promoter. "Great chin, great footwork, straight punches. I think he is a tremendous technical fighter, he has huge b---s and a tremendous chin. And he rumbles when he has to.
"I think the fact that he's not a TV star in the U.K. means that there's something wrong with the guys making the decisions over there. He adjusts great. He adjusted against Glen like a champion is supposed to adjust."
Froch's ability to adjust after Johnson's early success was pivotal.
"I was trying to knock him out at the beginning with power shots and it wasn't working," said Froch, 33. "And then I changed my game plan and was moving around and hitting him with more shots."
But will Froch be able to do adjust yet again to the more technically gifted Ward (23-0, 13 KOs), a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who has not been tested in any of his tournament bouts?
Froch, with that ultimate confidence, did not hesitate.
"We are gonna win," he said. "Me and my trainer [Robert McCracken] have the formula, and [Ward] will find out the formula when we box. This is what it's all about."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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