From Canvas to Felt with Super-Middleweight World Champion Carl Froch
He's a former four-time world champion, passionate poker player and a family man from Nottingham. Carl Froch was in our sights the moment he rocked up to Dusk Till Dawn Casino for the partypokerLIVE MILLIONS Main Event.
We cornered the man known as 'The Cobra' to see if his bite is as fearsome as it was for the two dozen men he knocked out in his glittering career. The gloves are off...
If your eldest child Rocco wanted to be a boxer or poker player, what would you prefer him to be?
“Poker player. I don’t want my children to be hit in the head. I’ve always loved boxing, I loved being a boxer, but looking back if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t. As much as I loved, the thought of doing it all again would be exhausting. When you’ve not done it, it’s all exciting. You want to become the champion, set yourself up and have a good future. But would I want my son to do it? Probably not. If he did decide to box, I’d really enjoy watching him. I take him boxing and he really enjoys it; he’s got a good jab and throws combination punches. He’s strong, so he has a lot of my attributes.
I’d never drive him into it, but he wants to go down to the boxing gym. He doesn’t want to play football. I’ve taken him. I helped him join a club, but he stands in the middle of the field looking at me as if to say ‘Dad, c’mon, rescue me, it’s raining. I took him out of the club. He plays golf and tennis, two sports I love. I’m not much of a team player – it’s probably why I love poker too.”
Do you care about your appearance and training anymore?
"I’ve been playing a lot of tennis and the weight falls off me, it’s not good. I like to look good and feel strong. I’m doing weights to feel like more of a machine. Now I’m not fighting, I need to keep myself in shape, I don’t want to become retired and fat. There are a couple of ex-boxers who are examples who I won’t mention. There are a couple of ex-fighters out there who look like physical wrecks."
I could not have hit him any harder. It couldn’t have landed any more flush on that jaw.
What’s the most difficult thing about live poker?
"For me it’s the patience and endurance of playing the whole tournament. Keeping your cool and maintaining focus for that period of time is so hard. Boxing is 36 minutes across 12 three-minute rounds, football is 90 minutes but poker? You can’t make a mistake. You’ve got to keep your energy up. Last night, when I was tired at midnight, I started to do silly things. I knew I was doing them, but part of me thought ‘I’ll be in bed in a couple of hours’.
If you’re coming to play a tournament, you’ve got to be coming her to win. To win it, it’s all in the preparation. You’ve got to sleep, eat the right foods and be prepared. It’s key in poker, but it’s what I find the most difficult."
What do you miss most about boxing?
"Just the fighting. Especially towards the end of my career, I used to realize that I wasn’t enjoying training so much. When I was young, I used to get up, go for a run, do pad-work and bags in the gym. You feel good when you’re world champion and people are watching you train, obviously thinking ‘look how hard he’s hitting’. But when you’re a bit older, you’ve got your world titles and you’ve made your money, you start to think ‘I could do without this backache. My legs ache, my hands are killing me and my elbows are ruined.’
You start wanting to go home and have some dessert after dinner! It’s monotonous, it’s like anything, it gets mundane.
The thing I miss the most is fight night. If I could take a tablet and be fit – like some people do – and just cut past three months of being in a training camp, I’d do it now. I’d fight James De Gale and knock him out, I’d beat Triple G [Gennady Golovkin] up because he’s too small. Who else? George Groves in a rematch, Kessler just came out of retirement, let’s have a decider. But I’m nearly 40 and I’m realistic. I’m retired and I couldn’t do the training camp. My achilles tendon hurts, my elbows are sore, my knee aches and I’ve had a nose job. I don’t want that ruined!"
What were the moments like just after the last punch of your career when you defeated George Groves?
"It was a bit intense because Groves was there having just been knocked out. I’d humbled him. I went back to my changing room, and everyone was waiting for me. I only had people who were close to me in my changing room afterward - my wife, my mom and stepdad, my brother and my best friends. My kids were at home. Then at the press conference, I got more praise and it felt great.
After the Groves fight, the drive back from London was in a souped-up car that Mercedes let me use for the fight marked with Cobra logos and Team Froch artwork on the side. It was like a convoy on the motorway, behind us, in front, to the sides, people hanging out their sunroofs and windows taking pictures, my brother filmed it. So he drove the G63, which is a 6.3litre V8 wagon. He put his foot down and the car just took off - driving at 70mph tops at all times of course! No-one could catch us and we’d slow down and everyone would surround us. It was the best drive of my life. I’d just knocked Groves out, we had all the fans around us taking selfies."
It was a great right-hander on his stupid, obnoxious face.
It was the last punch you ever threw, was it your best punch?
"It was the last punch I ever threw. It was a great right-hander on his stupid, obnoxious face. I could not have hit him any harder. It couldn’t have landed any more flush on that jaw. His leg had twisted round and all the weight had been transferred. It connected at just the right point of the chin.
Groves let the shot in by dropping his left hand to throw a hook, the shot that he told everyone he was going to knock me out with. He was so naïve that he’d told everyone, but it was just coincidence because I was going to hit him anyway. In his head he was clearly thinking ‘I’m going to knock Froch out’. He was so inexperienced and it was his undoing. You live and learn…the hard way. He got Cobra’d into a little eight-second nap in the ring."
Finally, if you could live one day in your life all over again, which one would you choose?
"What stands out in my head straight away is when Rocco was born. Making our way to the hospital, the waters breaking, sitting around not sure what’s going to happen and how we’re going to have this extra person. Then we left the hospital with someone else, a new person who belongs to you. Two of you go in and three come out, I just think you can’t beat it.
Winning the world title, doing stuff with my mom and brothers, my brother's weddings, being abroad, watching Naseem Hamed fight Pereira, going to Las Vegas and making the best man’s speech at my best friend’s wedding were all amazing memories… but it’s got to be Rocco being born. The birth of my first baby, our boy, I’d go through all that again. As horrific and barbaric as childbirth is, the end result, the disbelief, and amazement of it all were feelings I’d relive today. It’s the only time I’ve cried in years, just tears of joy, so it would have to be the birth of my son."