The mash up of styles with Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch is fascinating and opens up a Pandora’s box of possible outcomes of tonight's pick ’em fight in Helsinki for the WBC super-middleweight title.
Abraham, a known slow starter, boxes behind a tight high guard, and specialises in delivering his devastating punching power in the later rounds. Abraham’s critics would argue that he is a one-dimensional puncher, but he is light on his feet and has deceptively fast hand speed. Abraham has demonstrated concussive punching power in both hands, but his right is particularly explosive.
Froch is a box-puncher with trademark low-handed stance – particularly his left lead. Froch’s wide stance is the launch pad for sweeping hooks and leads that are designed for maximum impact. Like Abraham, Froch is a strong finisher. However, Froch’s problem is his leaky defence and at times he has over-relied on his granite chin, rather than deploy better evasive defensive skills. Froch’s epic fights with Pascal, Taylor and Kessler are examples were his opponent has consistently been allowed to step in with ease to land numerous heavy head shots.
On the eve of this world title showdown in Helsinki, Abraham and Froch, claim to have made alterations to their normal tactics. Abraham promises that he will start quicker in this fight and his promoter Wilfred Sauerland hinted at a couple of hidden surprises in his fighter’s game plan. Froch has talked about using his boxing skills to make the fight an ‘easier’ assignment and avoid getting involved in toe-to-toe action like he did with Kessler and Pascal. Essentially Froch will ‘stick and move’.
If Froch is to prevail against the teak-tough Armenian-born German power puncher then he will certainly need to change the reckless telephone box tactics deployed in recent fights. Froch can hit but Abraham is the puncher in this fight and has the quicker hands – for that reason it would be disastrous for Froch to get involved in a trading war. So how can Froch conquer King Arthur?
A useful reference point would be to study the scientific skills of a similar unorthodox low-handed style fighter. However, not the reflex-based low-handed styles of Prince Nassem Hamed or Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham or the dancing style of Ali.
The unorthodox skills of Gene Tunney contain the blueprint for Froch in this fight. Tunney had a similar low-handed stance as Froch and fought his fair share of sluggers in his time, (i.e. Carpentier, Dempsey, Gibbons and Greb) overcoming all of them by executing a meticulous fight plan. Against relentless heavy hitting sluggers like Harry Greb and Tommy Gibbons, Tunney boxed and moved behind a busy stiff jab and set up vicious body punching that paved the way for victory. Heavy body shots behind a strong jab, from the first bell, will be important for Froch to get a foothold in this fight and weaken Abraham.
Another key punch in this fight could be the uppercut. Froch delivers a beautiful uppercut (see fight with Brian Magee), but it is under used. Abraham lunges forward with his attacks and is wide open for a counter uppercut. As the fight progresses and Abraham opens up, Froch could borrow a favourite combination from Tunney’s tool kit – sweeping left hook and right uppercut (a classic example against Georges Carpentier) or land the uppercut behind a jab.
It would seem that Froch could adapt Tunney’s offensive blue print. However, the bigger obstacle is whether he can compliment that with Tunney’s superb defensive skills? Tunney had quick footwork and a propensity to adjust to every move his opponent made. The defensive aspect of Tunney’s blueprint is were Froch will fall short – therefore, will Froch’s granite chin get him out of jail again?
I anticipate Froch giving Abraham a tough night, but his ultimate undoing will be his flawed defence. Froch tends to stand in front of his opponent with little head or lateral movement. Abraham closes the range very quickly (similar to Katsidis in that regard) and has quick hands. Abraham showed enough in the later rounds against Dirrell (who has superior footwork to Froch) that he could cut the ring off and get to him and he will have a much easier time finding the target against Froch. It would seem that Froch is tailor made for a hard puncher like Abraham and I anticipate a stoppage win for King Arthur in the second half of the fight – probably the eighth round.