“The Cobra was beginning to make a name for himself.” Carl Froch in ‘The Cobra: My Story’ (2013)
It has been eighteen years since ‘The Cobra’ first appeared as a professional in front of his beloved Nottingham fans.
Opposing the Guadeloupe-born, Canning Town-based Frenchman Valery Odin, who was 6-5(1) at the time, Carl Froch, himself 5-0(4) had made four of his first five outings at the famous York Hall, but he longed for home.
Born in Nottingham in the late seventies, Froch would not make his professional debut until he was in his mid-twenties, in 2002, having won two ABA titles, and a bronze at the World Championships in 2001, going on to become one of Nottingham’s favourite sons courtesy of his in-ring exploits.
From lifting the English super middleweight strap in late 2003, ‘The Cobra’ would lift the Commonwealth (2004-06), British (2004-07, winning it outright against Tony Dodson), WBC World (2008-09, 2010-11), IBF World (2012-14), and WBA World (2013-14), appearing in an impressive twenty-one title contests over an eleven-year period.
But for all that success there’s certainly no place like home, a good selection of his title fights were in fact held in The Cobra’s hometown of Nottingham.
Odin had debuted in the summer of 2001 and, prior to opposing his former sparring partner, had battled the like of Wayne Elcock, Tony Dodson and Nathan King, among others; Froch meanwhile would stop that of Michael Pinnock, Ojay Abrahams, Darren Covill and Mike Duffield in his opening five, only being taken the distance, over six rounds, by Paul Bonson.
Having been ghosted by sports journalist and lecturer, Niall Hickman, Froch said in his autobiography ‘The Cobra: My Story’ (extracted below) of that late-January night in Nottingham that: “I didn’t exactly celebrate Christmas like a wild thing – I probably had a Guinness on Christmas Day – before it was back in the ring again, this time at the end of January…..
“The Odin fight was my debut in Nottingham, which made it extra special.”
As is often the case in boxing, fighters come and go, for whatever reason, be that taking their time accepting, don’t accept, pull out, or withdraw late through injury, Froch explained undergoing a similar experience for his homecoming.
“Two days before the fight was due we still didn’t have an opponent as a couple of fighters had looked at it, looked at the money on offer for taking me on, and cried off…..
“I was desperate to put on a show, this being my first time in Nottingham, and the fight was held at the city’s new arena and ice skating rink.”
On the night of 28 January 2003 Froch, weighing in over six pounds lighter than his opponent, took to his hometown, Nottingham Ice Arena, for the first time in what would be a long and illustrious career.
The man in the middle that night, Shaun Messer, would oversee what would eventually be near six rounds of action between two, hard-hitting, combatants, but for Froch, it would be much more than that.
“During the fight Odin nutted me a few times and he even screamed at me at one point, I think in frustration because he was getting nowhere, but by round six he was tiring and I put it on him with a fast combination. I broke him up with some powerful shots, one of which was an upper-cut, nearly raised him off the canvas, and he just couldn’t keep me off him any longer…..
“After the fight I felt on top of the world. I am a proud ‘Son of Nottingham’ and so to hear every single fan,” Froch had sold over 1,500 tickets himself for fight night, “assure me it as only a matter of time before I became world champion, while being premature, was also very flattering.”
And that was that, Froch, ‘A Son of Nottingham,’ had had his homecoming contest, a sixth-round stoppage success over Valery Odin.
He’d go on to win that world title, one of several, but the first, the WBC World super middleweight, via a UD12 decision, came against Jean Pascal, at the Trent FM Arena, near six years later, in the December of 2008.
Froch fought in his beloved Nottingham, ten more times, in between his debut at the Ice Stadium and and his first world title, in total fifteen fights in the city, fifteen wins, making a fortress at the ever-noisy, ever-packed Arena and establishing himself as one of the finest fighters this country has produced.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @YouTube the fight was Froch’s first pro bout in Nottingham.